The Arts

Billy Bishop Goes to War

Billy Bishop Goes to War featured image

reviewed by Paula Citron

Billy Bishop Goes to War
Written and composed by John Gray with Eric Peterson
Directed by Ted Dykstra
Starring Eric Peterson and John Gray
At the Young Centre until Aug. 29


The musical biography Billy Bishop Goes to War is one of Canada’s treasures. Written by composer John Gray with help from actor Eric Peterson in 1978, the two men have brought it back for Soulpepper.

When they first performed the monologue with music, they were in their brash 30s. Now in their sixties, the duo and director Ted Dykstra have ensured that there is a tinge of melancholy and reflection.

While the first act remains a very witty memoir of Bishop’s life leading up to his becoming Canada’s World War One ace pilot, the second act was always more philosophical and tangential. Now we are at war, and Bishop’s musings on death and survival have a lot more resonance.

Peterson, dressed in pajamas and a dressing gown, is a mature and ironic Bishop, while pianist Gray is the more thoughtful narrator. Both still have the charm to carry the show.

Billy Bishop Goes to War continues at the Young Centre until Aug. 29.

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