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Monday May 28, 2012 in Books
One of Canada’s most successful and enduring musical plays, Billy Bishop Goes to War was first published in 1982 and went on to win the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award and the Governor General’s Award for Drama. In 2010, the celebrated story of the World War One flying ace – credited with seventy-two victories and billed as the top pilot in the British Empire – was revised to frame the original play as a retrospective. It is the same play it always was – the difference is in the telling. Billy Bishop now appears in his later years, reflecting on his wartime exploits, and on the business of war and hero making. Bishop’s reminiscence is not so much about the horror and death of war as it is about being young and intensely alive. “The prime of life / The best of men,” Bishop sings, “It will never be / Like this again.”
A memory play about war, Billy Bishop has been going into battle onstage for more than thirty years. The Canadian classic is revisited in this second edition, where war is still a terrible thing, but some men say it was the greatest time of their lives. It’s about the ironies and the price of survival.
The play format is deceptively simple with a solo narrator who assumes multiple roles while his piano-playing sidekick offers sardonic musical comments.
Cast of 2 men.
ISBN 13: 9780889226890 | ISBN 10: 88922689X
5.5 W x 8.5 H inches | 128 pages
$17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
Backlist | Drama | Bisac: DRA013000
2 Paperback Edition
QUOTES OF NOTE
“Thirty years on, Billy Bishop still soars.” — Globe and Mail
“[The play has] reasserted its right to be called one of the great works in the
Canadian theatre canon.” — Toronto Star
“Eric [Peterson, the lead actor] does it in pyjamas and it puts an entirely different spin on the whole thing. It’s very interesting, it’s less about war and more about life now.” — The Tyee
“ Billy Bishop is a high-flying ace of a show, capturing the humour, the hellfire and the derring-do of an extraordinary career … The score is filled with vintage replicas of the kind of songs that sent men rushing in—and out—of battle. There are martial airs, barracksroom ditties, Kiplingesque tunes of glory, Gilbert and Sullivan-like patter songs and also a bitter brew of Brecht-Weill.” — New York Times
“ Billy Bishop Goes to War is a delightful—and cunningly wrought—work of art.” — New Yorker
“A landmark of the Canadian theatre … John Gray’s success with Billy Bishop lies in the universality of the human individual—a universality that works precisely because Gray has kept the show on one-individual terms. He creates and deflates the hero myth in the same gesture.” — Vancouver Sun
Winner of the 1980 The Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award
Winner of the 1982 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama
Winner of the 1999 Jessie Richardson Award: The Sun Readers’ Choice Award (Vancouver Playhouse)
About the ContributorsJohn MacLachlan Gray
John MacLachlan Gray is the author of a novel, many magazine articles, and several stage musicals, a book on tattoos, Lost in North America: The Imaginary Canadian in the American Dream (1994), Local Boy Makes Good (1987), and the internationally acclaimed Billy Bishop Goes to War (1982) with Eric Peterson. He has contributed sixty-five satirical pieces for The Journal on CBC Television, and is a frequent speaker on cultural issues. Among his many awards are the Governor General’s Award, the Canadian Authors Association Award, and the National Magazine Award.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program; and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.