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Billy Bishop Goes to War

af John Gray

Andre forfattere: Eric Peterson

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633321,525 (3.7)3
Billy Bishop Goes to War ranks as one of Canada’s most successful and endearing musical dramas in history. The Governor General’s Award-winning musical documents the glorious World War I exploits of Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop.

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I am so biased when it comes to Billy Bishop on account of working inside his house for the past two summers relaying all of his personal history to tourists and hearing so many stories from veterans of how he influenced and inspired them to join in WWII (veteran pilots, in particular). This is Canada's most famous musical (Anne of Green Gables: The Musical comes in second), I think of probably four musicals total. It really is well done, very appealing, and very funny, and throughout has that Canadian fear of glorifying ourselves, even deservedly. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Billy Bishop Goes to War by John MacLachlan Gray is the March 2015 bonus title for the Canadian Reads Challenge. Plays are funny things to read in that they are really and truly meant to be seen as performances. Actors read plays to learn their lines and become their characters — but reading one as written literature is something else entirely.

My father who did a bunch of acting in college owns a collection of the best contemporary plays (plays that were popular in the first half the 20th century). There was a time when we'd go camping at Green Valley Falls as a family and somehow one of those volumes of plays would end up in the reading material pile for that weekend. One night out of desperation (called teenage boredom) I cracked open the volume and read Arsenic and Old Lace (1943) by Joseph Kesselring. It was magnificent.

Now Billy Bishop Goes to War is a very different beast, in that it's written for a very limited cast (as in two people playing multiple roles). The person cast as Billy Bishop must be versatile enough to play the bulk of the cast, as it's Billy's recounting of his time in WWI. Rather than just telling the audience who he met and what they told him, Billy becomes those people.

If I were to compare Billy Bishop Goes to War to another stage production, I'd say it's most like Swimming to Cambodia by Spalding Gray (which is both a memoir and a monologue). Except with the WWI setting and the poking fun at the British aristocracy and their disdain for colonials (Canadians and anyone else from the Commonwealth), there's also a heavy helping of Blackadder Goes Forth.

As the introduction states, Billy Bishop is really two plays. Which play that is performed depends on the age of the actor playing Billy. If he's a young man, the play is done one way (and is longer, by the way). If he's an old man, the play is shorted to jump him right to the point of being a Canadian pilot hero. If you take in the large amount of wiggle room given to the piano player / narrator role, namely in how the songs (or in some cases, what music) are performed, then it can be any number of plays, following one of two branches.

That's not to say this sort of variation is unique to Billy Bishop Goes to War. It's not. Think of Shakespeare. His plays are done in modern settings, or gender swapped, or as musicals. But a lot of this interpretation is left to director or to the version being performed (Kiss Me Kate instead of Taming of the Shrew for instance). For Billy Bishop Goes to War, all the variations are left on the page and are left to the performers to pick and chose from. ( )
  pussreboots | Mar 26, 2015 |
Funny yet engaging look at the whirlwind life of Billy Bishop, who lands himself in the flying corps during WWI. The language is clear; one can see how this play has been so successfully performed over the years. Book contains an excellent introduction to the history of the play.
  warwulff | Apr 11, 2009 |
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John Grayprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Peterson, Ericmedforfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
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Billy Bishop Goes to War ranks as one of Canada’s most successful and endearing musical dramas in history. The Governor General’s Award-winning musical documents the glorious World War I exploits of Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop.

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