‘Billy Liar’, the play was written in the early 1960’s by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse. The film was released in 1962, in which Tom Courtenay starred as Billy and Julie Christie as Liz. Billy Fisher is bored. Bored with his job as an undertaker’s assistant, bored with his Northern family background. But he does have one thing going for him – a vivid imagination. In fact, the dimmer Billy’s surroundings, the more fantastic are his compensatory daydreams.
Not everyone takes kindly to these elaborate fantasies, especially not his three girlfriends, at least two of whom Billy is engaged to, as one lie leads to another reality and fantasy find themselves on an hilarious collision course, and even Billy is going to have trouble keeping them apart… This enduring tale has appeared as a play, novel, stage musical and the hugely successful movie starring Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie. There are differences between presenting the play in a theatre or broadcasting it on television. It would be advantageous presenting the play on television for several obvious reasons.
You could have more characters on TV and different settings. You could also use special effects to make the play more realistic where as, performing the play in a theatre there wouldn’t be that many characters as it wouldn’t be that exciting. Also, you could not have as many different settings and it is a lot more compressed. Therefore, it is obvious that presenting the play on TV it is more exciting in terms of characters, the different settings and the special effects. My aim for this essay is to compare and contrast the film adaptation of ‘Billy Liar’ with the stage play.
I will be discussing ways in which they differ and how each affects the audience. At the beginning of ‘Billy Liar’ in the book, Billy’s grandmother Florence is talking to herself about a person, who is called Dr. Blackmore about an appointment. Alice Fisher was complaining about her son Billy for not coming to breakfast in the mornings. As well as Alice, but even Billy’s father Geoffrey and Florence were complaining about Billy. They were all basically complaining Billy’s laziness. Florence’s opinion is that his parents did not bring him up to proper standards.
Eventually Billy comes down and says he’s been offered a job in London by a man, known as Danny Boon, as a scriptwriter but no one believes him. In the film, unlike in the script, Florence is not talking to herself. It also shows Billy in his bedroom fantasising about being a general. As well as showing Billy’s bedroom, it also showed the radio station and the streets. Also in the film and the play, Geoffrey asks Billy if he has sent Alice’s letter to the radio station but in the film this scene comes much earlier that in the play script. What’s up- you know what’s up. What have you done to the letter of your mothers? ” “What, what, what! Don’t keep saying bloody ‘what’. You know what letter. That what she gave you to post to ‘Housewives’ choice” On a stage, the dialogue in ‘Billy Liar’ is very important. The majority of the time the dialogue and the actions have taken place in the living room. This means that there is lack of actual acting and movement, and so without the extent of the dialogue the play would be very uneventful due to the lack of space and different settings
In the film they have used a lot of imagery and special effects, and so there is less dialogue. This would make it more eventful and more exciting for the audience. Also, there have been additional dialogues in the film such as at the station where Billy is talking to Liz. The stage play was set in Geoffrey’s house. The set consisted of a living room, entrance hall and a section of the garden of Geoffrey Fishers garden; it was a typical lower middle-class detached house in an industrial town in the north of England. To the left of the stage is the garden.
The entrance to the house from the garden leads directly into the hallway with stairs going up to the bedrooms. Through the hallway is the living-room where most of the action of the play takes place. Also next to the living-room is the kitchen. The kitchen is furnished. The furniture is quite new but in a dreadful taste. Above the fireplace is a family photographs on the mantelpiece and above the mantelpiece is a brass studied circular mirror. The room also contains a cheap and flashy cocktail cabinet, a large TV set and also a sideboard with two cupboards.
In the film there are a lot more settings so it makes it livelier. Unlike the script it shows the station, Billy’s workplace, the town, the cafe where Rita works and the rooms in the house. The film expands the setting compared to the book as it is more exciting for the audience and the scenes are brought to life. The settings are so different because the most obvious problem was the stage setting. The book takes us round the town of Stradhoughton, its cafi??’s, dance-hall, cemetery and much that is in the novel could not be shown on the stage.
Therefore in the play you could have any sort of settings with special effects to make it more realistic/ The play script mainly focuses on Billy including his lies and his fantasies. It also focuses on his relationship with his girlfriends and also his relationship with his parents including his grandma. In the film they concentrate on Billy’s family, his lies and his fantasies, but the film mainly concentrates on his relationship with his girlfriends. They mainly concentrate on that aspect, as most of Billy’s problems in the film are his girlfriends. Obviously this would affect the audience.
In the play script Billy doesn’t get on with any of his family members including his grandmother. “He deserves a bloody good hiding… ” “I’ve told him before, he can start coming in of a night or else go and live somewhere else… ” The focus is different in the novel because in a play the themes about the girlfriends would be more interesting whereas in the play script it also focuses on his girlfriends but not as detailed. In the play script Bill has a boring job as an undertaker’s assistant. He’s got a dull lifestyle apart from a vivid imagination.
He is constantly thinking of fantasy stuff. His parents always nag him. From the play script it seems that Billy is lazy and he is always telling lies. “I’ve shouted at him three times” “Billy!… Billy! I shan’t tell you again. If I come up there you’ll know about it! I suppose you know what time it is! Your boiled egg’s stoned cold… ” Therefore, this shows how lazy Bill was. In the film Billy is a complete different character compared to the play script. Billy looks more soft and vulnerable in the film but in the play script he sounds quite hard.
In the film you actually feel sorry for Billy. He looks confused and doesn’t really know what he’s doing and it reveals his apartness so that we are more likely to sympathize with his frustrated and drifting ambitions Billy has a very vivid imagination; in fact, the dimmer Bill’s surrounding is, the more fantastic are his compensatory daydreams. He has at least four of his elaborate fantasy scenes in the play script. The first fantasy scene, which took place, was near to the beginning of ‘Billy Liar,’ Billy starts talking to his imaginary companion in a cafi?? who is feeling very suicidal.
The person who was feeling suicidal was an art student. The second fantasy scene is that Billy is imagining a presentation in which, he has won the television scriptwriter of the year, seventh year running. The third one Billy and his friend Arthur greeted each other as mill workers. In the film it contained a lot more fantasy scenes. In the film it seems as if Billy has got a problem. The fantasy scenes are so exaggerated that he needs to see someone like a doctor. Although Billy is the central character, his importance in the play can only be seen in contrast to his stolid family.
Also it is important that Billy’s early fantasy scenes are not played as a vaudeville act in an attempt to get as many laughs as possible. Billy must always remember that the purpose of all his fantasy scenes is to give the audience a key to what is going on in his mind. In the play script the characters which are involved are; Billy, who is 19 years old and has a habit of telling lies. Billy’s parents. (Geoffrey and Alice) Billy’s three girlfriends who are called Rita, Barbara and Liz. The other character is Billy’s grandmother known as Florence.
In the film there are additional characters so there is more dialogue and therefore more scenes. The additional characters reduce the focus on the family. This would affect the audience without any doubt. Because there are more characters it is more exciting which in turns means more scenes. The audience would also not become bored due to the reduced focus on the family. At the ending in the play script, Billy decides to go eventually to London for a job as a script writer with Liz. Billy tells his parents, who doesn’t believe him at first but does when doesn’t return after a while, but actually at the end Billy does return. Anyway you’re not going to London or nowhere else-so you can get the idea out of your head, for a kick-off. ” In the film the ending is different to the play script. Billy misses the train on purpose as he is too scared to change his lifestyle even though he doesn’t like it. Another possibility of Billy missing the train is that he had to attend his grandmother’s funeral. It was a momentous day for Billy. The difference between the endings in the play script and the film was that that in the play script Billy returns from the station.
We don’t actually know what events actually took place, whereas in the film we know that Billy misses the train and also are shown the events leading up to it. In the play script the style of play was very relaxed. There was a lot of dialogue and sometimes it was very long winded. It also had mild humour. In the film, compared to the play script it was very fast paced. It was interesting and the scenes were moving very quickly. After summarising all the different sections from the play script and the film, I have found out some similarities and differences.
I have concluded that the audience would enjoy the film than the play script. This is because, first of all the setting is more lively as there are more settings compared to the book. Also there are more fantasies in the film than there are in the play script. Also, judging Billy’s character in the film compared to the play script he is a complete different character. There is more dialogue in the play script. It would be more exciting for an audience viewing the film in terms of the special effects and additional characters.