Billy Bishop Goes to War
War is not funny but a story of hard times can bring a bit of comical relief to a very stressful situation. Such is the story of Billy Bishop Goes to War. This is a story of one of Canada’s most famous war heroes. Written by John Gray in collaboration with Eric Peterson (we all know him from “Oscar” on Corner Gas), this acclaimed award winning production appeared in 1978. It is the tale Billy Bishop loosely based on his narrative experience as an acclaimed fighter pilot in England during the First World War, a self proclaimed liar, horrible student, and troublemaker. It is an often humourous expose of how anything can be accomplished.
The amazing John Ulyatt, accompanied by Ryan Sigurdson, brings this entertaining tale to life. As part musical/narrative/visual, Ulyatt is amazing in the role of Billy Bishop playing not one but 19 characters! From Billy Bishop himself to the torchy French cabaret singer Helene, Ulyatt makes you believe it is a cast of thousands! How he can slip between characters in the blink of an eye is nothing short of impressive. Even though the set is mainly made up of wooden crates, chairs, and tables the scenes go from an actual flyer plane (that you get to watch Ulyatt construct) to a hospital bed, to a bar in Winnipeg, all the while Sigurdson on piano provides background vocals and sound effects to enhance the feeling.
Ulyatt has been a main staple of the Edmonton stage and we are lucky to have him. Sigurdson is a graduate of the acclaimed MacEwan University Theatre Arts Program and has done several past productions as pianist but hopefully will be around for many more.
Billy Bishop is the most unlikely young man to become a legend in the Canadian Ranks but this portrayal chronicles how he became a decorated, commendable part of Canadian History. As the play goes through the enlistment to the end it is very entertaining, haven seen live theatre in many cities like London etc these two are to be noticed for their tremendous on key performances.
From a truant miscreant to hero, this tale will captivate you from beginning to end. I even found myself singing some of the songs performed days later. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end and must admit the two hours “flew” by.