Review: 3*** Billy the Kid – The Unicorn Theatre Via @digitaltheatre @UnicornTheatre

Tweetingit: 3* Two generations collide and ultimately bond through a shared love of football. A neat two hander draws out a moving story of the beautiful game and its effect on our lives.

Two people on opposite sides of life can learn much from each other if they only take the time to listen. Billy the Kid is a neatly executed two-hander that shows how football can sustain people through the highs and lows of life. Billy (Dudley Dutton) is an 80 year old with attitude and a fund of stories to tell. Sam (Sam Donovan) is a bright young thing about to join the Chelsea Football Academy. He confidently looks forward to cash on the hip, flash cars and WAG girlfriends.

Meanwhile, Sam discovers that Billy has done it for real. He played for Chelsea before the war and quickly became a darling of the Shed. But then the Second World War broke out. His brother Joe happily enlists but Billy is not so sure. Their father fought in the Great War, and he endured a premature and painful death; it turned Billy into a pacifist. Nevertheless he joins the army as an ambulance driver to care for the wounded. But what happened to Joe; did Billy resume his playing career and did Sam make it into the Chelsea Academy?

Billy the Kid is a well-acted piece that provides a detailed back story of the principal characters. A story told in flashback over barely 60 minutes requires deft acting. Dudley Sutton pulls off a charming performance as the cantankerous but lovable Billy. Sam Donovan has the more challenging task, playing a variety of characters from Billy’s life. All of which works reasonably well but too often falls into the traditional generation trap. The underlying theme is kids today, don’t know you’re born? which hasn’t worn particularly well. There might be 60 years between Billy and Sam but they still share common ground; they both love football which should relegate the age gap to a footnote in the story. Even so, the script covers an enormous amount of ground particularly where Billy’s war experiences are concerned. A solid and well-constructed play that could just do without the clichés.

Based on a Novel by: Michael Morpurgo

Adapted and Directed by: Tony Graham

Link to Billy the Kid on Digital Theatre

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