Billy Bishop Goes to War captivated this Diva

8 Jul
Photo:  Billy Bishop provided by Blyth Festival

Photo: Billy Bishop provided by Blyth Festival

by Diva Melody Hodgson
In the past few years I have devolved into the type of person that cannot do anything without checking my phone.  Whether it be watching TV, eating a meal, hanging out with friends and family or, the most special, talking on a landline, my phone is never far from reach.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and email (let’s not even get started on Google or AskReddit) have become my clutch to avoid being bored.  I fully recognize how pitiful it is, and it is not something I am terribly proud of, and I am working on it – trust me.  With that confession in mind, it was not without trepidation that I attended the opening night of Billy Bishop Goes to War at the 2014 Blyth Festival.

Two hours of no back-up plan; two hours of live theatre that did not have scene changes every 30 seconds or flashing lights or dramatic music like a movie does; two hours of me, paying attention, because there is no “pause” or “rewind”.  I went into the theatre blind, meaning I did not research the play, because I wanted to go in without any expectations and give it an honest shot.  So on Friday I turned off my phone, found my seat, and readied myself for what was to come.  And let me tell you, I was completely blown away.

JD Nicholsen, who plays the infamous Billy Bishop, is such a force of talent on the stage I will forever be in admiration of him.  His voices, facial expressions, sound effects and innate storytelling ability are so enthralling that I found myself captivated within the first scene.  Coupled with his stage partner Marek Norman who not only complimented Nicholsen, but also shone in his own regard, the two-man show kept the audience alternating between laughter, anticipation and dual admiration from open to close.  The play was fast-paced, the songwriting was lively, humorous and respectfully sombre when need be, and the visuals were beautifully incorporated into each scene.  Marvelously written and executed, Billy Bishop Goes to War is a true Canadian theatrical gem.


After the standing ovations had receded, and as the Blyth Royal Canadian Legion Colour Guard marched the colours out of the theatre to an audience performing a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen, I realized I had made it.  I had survived the two hours of live theatre…and I had loved it.  Perhaps you are like me, unsure if you have the ability to fully appreciate the skill and talent it takes to produce live theatre.  The skill and talent it takes to perform a live play in one shot, without any retakes or creative editing.  Or the skill and talent it takes to keep an entire audience captivated  for any amount of time, nevermind for the full duration of a play.  And if you are, fear not, you can overcome it – I promise.  Luckily, Billy Bishop Goes to War is a great place to start.






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