Review – Singing’ I’m No A Billy, He’s a Tim

Aug 6 2013 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩   Fair attempt

Just Festival At St John’s, Venue 127: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 24 August
Review by Paul Johnson

A Celtic fan and a Rangers fan are forced to examine their differences after being banged up together in the same police cell on the day of the Glasgow old-firm derby in Des Dillon’s hugely successful comedy, revived here by Black Dingo Productions.

Hang on. Really? Knowing the backlash if there was a serious incident, would the police or prison service really deliberately allow that to happen?

Singing' I'm No A Billy, He's a Tim by Black Dingo Productions. Photo © Jasmin Egner

Yes, this is a play. But it’s a play about real life and yet, in this production at least, that initial set-up seems too blatantly unreal. Unfortunately, any explanation for the unlikely scenario is lost; a mix of some lines not being sufficiently pointed leading to dialogue being delivered too fast. Heavy west coast accents and diction that is not the sharpest – especially during the more shouty scenes – later mean more lines can be missed.

Brian Hill (Billy) and Gerry Kielty (Tim) are likeable, work hard and have most success during their comedy scenes but fall just short of being believable as ‘90-minute bigots’. Derek Elsby doesn’t quite establish Harry the guard’s authority enough to gain maximum contrast from the pathos of his later scenes.

And where director David McFarlane might have created such an atmosphere of imminent violence as to have the audience on edge throughout, the posturing never rises above handbags at dawn. Body language and physicality often seemed cued rather than felt; real-life hate-filled nut-jobs wouldn’t brush off a shove in the back with just a shrug and a look.

If the presence of the CCTV camera in the corner of the cell is hauding them back, the actors need to acknowledge its all-seeing eye rather more.

Lacks the required bite and venom

When physical confrontation settles down to name-calling and the repertoires of opposing historical facts passed from bigoted father to bigoted son to be parroted out in justification for the dogmas and doctrines, the delivery often lacks the required bite and venom. It takes more than the liberal occurrences in this script of not only the f-word but the c-word too, to achieve that.

Premiered at the Fringe in 2005, Des Dillon clearly created a good play with very funny lines and clever ideas and on its subsequent tours of Scotland and Ireland it has played to great acclaim before huge audiences.

This production begs the question of how much of that success was down to the play and how much was actually about outstanding performances by the award-winning actors in that production?

This semipro cast and director are good, but clearly not at that sort of level, meaning that weaknesses in the script are exposed. Some scenes are too contrived; with words that simply don’t seem believable coming from these characters; and the corny ending over stretches credibility.

There is much to like about this attempt by Black Dog Productions, but there is too much in the script that proves beyond them.

Running time 1h 20m
Run ends Saturday 24 August
The Just Festival at St John’s, St John’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Princes Street, EH2 4BJ (Venue 127)
1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 24 August at 8.30pm.
Tickets from:
Singing’ I’m No A Billy, He’s a Tim is part of the Just festival at St John’s. Details:


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