News: Happy Birthday Billy Elliot!

Tuesday 12 May 2015 by Clare Evans

Three Billys: James Lomas, George Maguire and Liam Mower at the curtain call in 2005

Billy Elliot, the unlikely Musical phenomenon about a miner’s son who dreamed of being a ballet dancer in Thatcher’s Britain, is celebrating its 10th year on the West End today. Lee Hall, the film and musical’s Director, is more surprised than anyone.

In the beginning Billy Elliot had also felt an impossible proposition because people told us that many in the audience wouldn’t countenance the themes of the show. We are unapologetic that this is a show that is seen from the point of view of the striking miners. It also has a central 11-year-old gay character, a cross-dressing number, a rude song about Maggie Thatcher and kids who talk like kids do talk in mining communities in Northern England where swearing is just how it is. But to my amazement we have had no complaints.

Read more: The Telegraph, 12 May 2015

While much of the success hangs on the emotional punch of the story and the charm of Billy, it wouldn’t be Billy Elliot without dancing. Although Billy aspires to dance ballet, choreographer Peter Darling created a movement palette that encompasses styles from tap to hip-hop and acrobatics to folk dancing. Even the way the miners and the young boys walk is used as a form of expression. It was a decision that Darling made very deliberately.

“I didn’t want to convey the notion that only one form of movement is of value,” says Darling. “I wanted to use as many different forms of movement as possible. We’re celebrating dance; dance is worthy of celebration and all forms of dance can tell a narrative. Ballet can tell a narrative. Tap can tell a narrative.”

Tap actually lends itself extremely well to anger,” says Darling. “The ‘Angry Dance,’ in a way, is about Billy wanting to stop dancing. But the rhythm in his head keeps on going. If you want to stop your feet from moving, you slam them to the floor. So that’s where the idea came from: Billy would slam his feet to the floor, and there would be a rhythmic element to it. And it went from there.”

Read more: Main and Beale, 31 July 2012

There will likely be some familiar faces invited on stage tonight to mark the occasion, with many of the past Billy’s having gone on to successful careers in dance and acting.

One of the original Billys, Liam Mower was 12 when he joined the 2005 original cast. Now aged 22, he is a dancer with the Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures where he has starred in The Nutcracker, Edward Scissorhands and is currently on tour in The Car Man.

“Billy Elliot was the first thing I’d ever auditioned for,” Liam recalls. “I was juggling the show and doing my dance training the Royal Ballet School and academic classes. It was quite difficult to find time to see my family in east Yorkshire, but being on the stage was the thing I really loved to do the most. I’m working with Matthew Bourne now, but Billy remains one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

Other boys to play the footloose son of a miner include Layton Williams, who played the role between 2007 to 2008, and has gone on to appear in BBC Two’s Beautiful People and in all three series of BBC Three’s Bad Education. Now 20, he is also appearing in The Car Man alongside Liam Mower. Dean-Charles Chapman was Billy from 2009 to 2011, and has since been in BBC One’s The White Queen, the film Before I Go To Sleep, and he plays Tommen Baratheon in Game of Thrones.

Read more: BBC, 9 May 2015

Billy Elliot the Musical continues at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London SW1. The show celebrates its tenth birthday on Tuesday, 12 May 2015

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