Critics are raving about... Billy Bishop Goes to War at Jermyn Street Theatre

08 Nov
Author: Staff
Charles Aitken & Oliver Beamish play Billy Bishop

Critics have been left "literally breathless" by Proud Haddock's revival of rarely seen Canadian musical two-hander Billy Bishop Goes to War, which pays tribute to the Commonwealth's contributions to England's World War One effort, and in particular the Canadian ace pilot of the title. We've rounded up highlights from the avalanche rave reviews...

Coinciding with the centenary of the end of World War I, Proud Haddock presents Billy Bishop Goes to War, the show's first London production in over 25 years, running until 24 November 2018 at Jermyn Street Theatre. 

This striking musical drama is based on the true story of young Billy Bishop, a failing military college student who became Canada’s indomitable flying ace, the most successful pilot of his generation.

Helmed by Proud Haddock artistic director Jimmy Walters, Billy Bishop Goes to War stars Charles Aitken as Younger Billy with Oliver Beamish as Older Billy. Beamish also provides musical accompaniment, and between the two, they play 17 roles.

In 1914, Billy Bishop, aged only 20, signed up to fight in the Great War. A failing and bullied student, he overcame intense prejudice and astonishing danger to receive his wings and become the top fighter pilot. Through a combination of bravery and sheer luck, Billy was able to find his place and prove his worth. He became a true Canadian hero.

Brought to life with songs of the period and written by John MacLachlan Gray in collaboration with Eric PetersonBilly Bishop Goes to War transports the audience across the landscape of World War I, from the thick mud of No Man’s Land to the drawing rooms of the British aristocracy. 

Billy Bishop Goes to War runs from 31 October to 24 November 2018 at Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST. Performances run Mondays to Fridays at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 3.30pm. Tickets are priced £10-£30. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!

London Theatre 1 - ★★★★★
Terry Eastham: "I entered the auditorium and was literally breathless as I was confronted by a room full of memories and ghosts from Billy’s life... Charles Aitken and Oliver Beamish work exceptionally well as the younger and older Billy."
The Stage - ★★★★
Dave Hollander: "Jimmy Walters’ production succeeds not simply as entertainment, but because it balances the enormous sense of loss for those who died in the Great War against the guilt felt by many who fought and survived.
TheatreCat - ★★★★
Libby Purves: "This 1982 Canadian play is a fascinating sidelight in this centenary week,  a biography of one star pilot in that war... Gray’s writing is often startlingly poetic; the songs vibrate with atmosphere... Poignantly beautiful."
Musical Theatre Review - ★★★★
Susan Elkin: "It’s a pleasure to see two actors working together as sensitively as Oliver Beamish, who also plays piano, and Charles Aitken... Imaginatively directed by Jimmy Walters... Definitely one to catch."
Broadway World - ★★★★
Cindy Marcolina: "Dynamic and heart-breaking... Charles Aitken and Oliver Beamish are captivating. They feed off each other's energy and complete the other's side of the story... As directed by Walters, Billy Bishop Goes to War becomes a ballad of survival."
IThankYouTheatre - ★★★★
Paul Joyce: "Director Jimmy Walters stages it so well with two powerful performers who soon get you lost in the narrative, hanging on their words and imagining those incredibly fragile and brave young men, giving their all in service to country and Commonwealth
TheatreBox - ★★★★
Sophia Halpin: "The acting is absolutely phenomenal, the period-appropriate music in turns droll and spellbinding, the pacing riveting, and all aspects of design – set, lighting, sound – flawless. It is rare to feel so completely transported in time and place." 
Lastminute Theatre - ★★★★
John O'Brien: "Billy Bishop is a national hero in Canada and Billy Bishop Goes to War is the most performed play in Canadian theatre. It ought to be more widely known here in the UK... You are in for a treat. Go, go, go."
ActDrop - ★★★★
Peter Brown: "An intimate, absorbing and moving play with music documenting the extraordinary real-life experiences of a Canadian flying ace during The Great War."
Entertainment Focus - ★★★★
Angela Johnson: "A revived production to honour the centenary of World War One, you won't regret time spent paying your respects to Canadian war hero Billy Bishop."
Reviewsgate - ★★★★
William Russell: "Plays about the Great War are popping up all over the place at the moment, but this is one of the most interesting. Billy’s moment of catharsis... chills the blood. These were very young men most of whom, as Billy says, never got old."
Everything Theatre - ★★★★
Brian Penn: "A remarkable piece of storytelling. Without elaborate visuals or set design, the play makes its point about the human cost of war and how a unique generation were sacrificed. Charles Aitken and Oliver Beamish were excellent."
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