• Review: Billy Elliot at the Bristol Hippodrome




    Based on the smash hit film of the same name, Billy Elliot is set in a North-East mining town during the strikes of 1984/85. The show follows Billy, a 12-year-old boy who swaps boxing for dancing and soon finds out he has a natural talent for the art. While his ability is much to the delight of his dance teacher, Mrs Wilkinson, it’s a bitter pill to swallow for Billy’s dad and brother, who are busy striking against the pit closures enforced by Margaret Thatcher.

    Billy Elliot is a welcome visitor to the Hippodrome stage; directed by Stephen Daldry and with music from Elton John, the show is packed full of humour, gripping drama and also emotive storytelling, thanks to its powerful script as well as some tremendous acting from the cast. From the main characters to the chorus of ballet girls, each and every cast member was fully committed to their role, something that is refreshing as well as exciting to see on stage.



    As Mrs Wilkinson, Annette McLaughlin managed to make the role (immortalised by Julie Walters in the film) her own. She was strong, steely, determined, wickedly funny, and with a heart of gold. Her scenes with Haydn May, as Billy, were a joy to watch. May was further supported on stage by Martin Walsh as Billy’s dad, Andrea Miller as Grandma, and Scott Garnham as Billy’s older brother, Tony. While all three were entertaining to watch, Walsh had a tendency to bark or shout a lot of his lines. It’s a small annoyance, though, in what was an altogether stellar production.

    Young May has a no doubt incredibly bright future ahead of him, whether as a dancer, gymnast, actor, or all three. Watching him is incredibly absorbing and mesmerising; the boy has an abundance of natural talent which, combined with his obvious hard work to succeed in the role, makes for a winning combination. His performance moved me to tears several times throughout the show, and then had me laughing out loud the next. His scenes with Henry Farmer, as Billy’s best friend Michael, were a particular highlight.



    The choreography, as one might expect, is stunning. The hard, bitter, angry world of the picketing miners plays out against a backdrop of dancing ballerinas, and it works beautifully. The moments Billy finds to lose himself in the music are easily the best, particularly the scene where he dances to the music of Swan Lake accompanied by ‘Older Billy’, Luke Cinque-White. Both he and May were exquisite on stage together.

    I’ll admit; I was not expecting to necessarily enjoy this show. However, I was massively surprised by its energy, its emotion, and the fabulous performances. Billy Elliot completely won me over, and, judging from the tremendous standing ovation at the end, the rest of the Hippodrome felt the same. If you have an opportunity to catch this show while it’s on tour, do so. You won’t be disappointed.

    5 stars.


    Categories: SeatChoice, Theatres


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