Preview: Billy Elliot
Feelgood song and dance rubs shoulders with political drama in this award-winning musical
A coming of age, triumph over adversity tale it may be, but at the core of Billy Elliot beats a political heart. So when writer, Lee Hall was asked to turn his heart-warming yet gritty film into a stage musical, it understandably gave him pause for thought.
'I was initially quite worried,' says Hall. 'Because although Billy Elliot has a fairytale structure, it came from my own experience of growing up in the north east of England during the Thatcher years and the miners' strike. It's about some of the hardships those communities suffered, and I didn't want that to be sentimentalised in any way.'
Speaking to the show's co-creators, director Stephen Daldry, choreographer Peter Darling, and songwriter Elton John, however, Hall realised they weren't the first people to use musical theatre to make a point – and that Billy Elliot could follow in those footsteps.
'I thought about the very strong tradition of plays with music that aren't glitzy, a lot of which came out of Scotland with John McGrath and 7:84,' says Hall. 'And also Joan Littlewood's Oh, What a Lovely War, and I realised if we inhabited that space we could tell a story about ordinary working class characters that wasn't patronising or sentimental, and make something really unique.'
Edinburgh Playhouse, Tue 20 Sep—Sat 22 Oct.