Billy Liar

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Royal Exchange - Manchester

Three generations, living under one roof, in a time of austerity – as if you needed any excuse to revive Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s 1960 stage play?

Billy Liar still fizzes with energy, fun and youth – and that’s the truth.

Quite apart from any contemporary relevance, this is a production bound to make a star out of a young Harry McEntire, whose talent has already been glimpsed here in previous work.

TV viewers have also seen the face but now’s the time to remember the name.

In the title role he makes audiences care deeply about the fate of a serial liar, thief and philanderer.

And he does it all with the lightest of touches.

Director Sam Yates reins the play in from becoming physical farce and instead concentrates on its brooding satire.

Some of the darker comedy is pitch-black brutal in places but the laughs are always coaxed, never signposted.

Katie Moore makes an especially heavy-ordnance blonde bombshell out of girlfriend Rita in another eye-catching performance.

Without word of a lie this is a Billy true to itself.

Catch it before July 12.

David Upton