Edinburgh Fringe: Singin’ I’m no a Billy he’s a Tim *****

Assembly @ George Street

Date    20-30 August

Time    15:45     TICKETS

Sectarianism isn’t just a problem in Ulster; it’s big in Scotland too, as this powerful no-holds-barred comedy reminds us.  Rangers – Celtic rivalry is heavily underpinned by deep sectarian attitudes; as one of the characters tells Harry the screw, ‘There’s more to football than football, Harry.’

On the day of an Old Firm match, Celtic fan Tim finds himself banged up in the same cell as Billy, who follows Rangers.  The fast-paced script takes the pair through their initial hostility, fighting and point-scoring against one-another, to a realisation of some of the things they have in common.

This 85-minute play could easily have been a complacent smug middle class holier-than-thou, let’s-all-laugh-at-the stupid-sectarian-bigots artifice. The writer Des Dillon managed to avoid that pitfall.

Dillon’s script allowed people to laugh at some of the absurdities of their own attitudes and face the fact that in reaction to events, each of us have our own inner bigotries waiting for an opportunity to come out in all their ugliness.

Dillon also demonstrated that most of us also have our own inner decency and sense of empathy for individuals who face problems with which we can relate.  Both Billy and Tim had small children and each of them was able to offer sympathy for the screw Harry and prayers for his dangerously ill grandson.

This message isn’t at all heavy-handed.  The interaction between the cast members is sharp and above all that, the script it is very, very funny.  You might want to think twice about bring your maiden aunt along, though. She might find some of the language offensive.

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