When best friends Joe and Billy arrive at a secret bird watching hideout, they could be like any two friends off on some runaway adventure. They innocently unpack – folding their clothes in sync – and chat about what food they have brought. However, this isn’t just a holiday; these two friends grew up in a care home, doing everything together. But now, Billy is ill, and Joe can’t bear to lose his friend to medicine, doctors and family – a place he can’t follow him. So they’ve stolen away together, and Joe has made Billy promise: do not tell anyone and no more medicine.
Despite its darkness, Billy Through The Window is a story about growing up, in all its oddness and awkwardness. Joe and Billy have a kind of pact to tick off forbidden things, like kissing, smoking and drinking. Now, all on their own, they do all the rebellious, grown up things they have never been allowed to. So they drink beer, look at porn, smoke a joint and gamble – all in a crazy fast pretense at adulthood. However, this cannot carry on forever, and sooner or later Joe has to confront the truth about Billy, and what he has done.
The two leads carry this play well, both giving committed and very moving performances. I did feel that the acting choices sometimes resembled that kind of gross oversimplification that actors often do when playing children. However, it’s the relationship between the pair that is at the center of this play, and their childhood innocence is captured touchingly.
I suspect Billy Through The Window is one of those plays that can spark a very wide range of reactions, both emotionally and morally. Writer Tabitha Mortiboy has created a well crafted play which deals with friendship, adolescence and vulnerability.
Billy Through the Window is playing at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) from 19-30 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information, visit the festival website.