Identify the main themes in ‘Billy Liar’ by focusing on extracts involving Billy and his father. As a director, how might you work with your actors to enable them to understand and convey these themes more fully? ‘Billy Liar’ by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse was written in 1959. It was adapted from the novel written by Keith Waterhouse. The play ‘Billy Liar’ is set in the 1950’s, a bleak, drab decade,
following the Second World War. People’s lives were colourless and dull; things were black and white. Very few people had TV, and most were entertained by the radio. The play ‘Billy Liar’ is set in a small town, which reflected the boringness of the time and the fact that there was nothing for youths to do. At the time in which the play is set, England was very poor, this was a very depressing time for its citizens.
Teenage culture was non existent in the early 1950’s. There was no such thing as teenage fashion or teenage music. The teenagers would simply reflect the fashion and music that their parents liked. Teenagers were expected to be seen and not heard, they would do exactly what an elder told them without question. Answering your parents back was totally out of the question and unheard of. Teenagers wouldn’t dare to question their parents, as there would be serious consequences. Teenagers wore exactly what their parents wore, and listened to the same music as their parents.
During the late 1950’s came a time of change. Elvis introduced Rock and Roll to the teenagers, and this signified the start of the teenage revolt. Along with him, Elvis brought about teenage fashion and teenage music. This is when the teenagers first started getting out of control. They started to dress differently and develop their own style, but most of all, they started to answer back their parents and question them, and no longer did they live up to their expectations of being seen and not heard. They would come home late, and ignore their parents’ wishes. This was a teenage rebellion. This all leads up to a generation gap, between Billy Fisher and his father, Geoffrey Fisher. There is evidence of this generation gap, from Billy’s entrance, in Act 1, to Geoffrey’s exit.
One of the main themes of the play is the generation gap and how it reflects the clashes of generation between Billy and his father. Billy behaves in the complete opposite way that his father would like him to. Billy gets a lot more freedom than his father had at his age and Billy had a better education, and Geoffrey doesn’t think that Billy appreciates it. Billy is continually lying and frequently takes things that don’t belong to him. Billy is completely unreliable and cannot be trusted. Billy’s lying is one of the main causes of the friction between Billy and his father. Geoffrey is very hostile towards Billy.
Geoffrey Fisher is a lower middle class character, who has a garage business. He is aggressive. He is hostile and cold towards Billy, and he uses the word ‘bloody’ a lot, however he only tends to use it when addressing Billy. He speaks in short sharp sentences, and shows no kindness or softness, and he has no time for Billy. He shouts frequent demands at Billy. Geoffrey is also sarcastic about Billy; e.g. in Act 1 scene 1 Geoffrey says ‘where’s his bloody lordship then?’
Billy is 19 years old. He has at least 3 girlfriends and he is a womaniser an example to show this, is when he says ‘I’m not ordinary folk, even if she is’. He is a rebellious, lazy teen, who fantasises a lot and makes things up. Billy wants to make his life more exciting and does so by, continuously lying and fantasising, Geoffrey really hates Billy lying, as it frustrates him. Billy provokes his father to be aggressive, by answering him back with sarcasm, also Billy’s uncaring attitude and repeated sarcasm, winds up his father as well. Billy uses long sentences and exaggerates things. In Act 1 scene1 Billy says ‘your servant ma’am’. This is a good example of Billy’s sarcasm, and it shows that Billy is sarcastic and flippant at any given opportunity.