Billionaire Boy – Review – Harewood House, Leeds
By Steve Crabtree, May 2021
Theatre. Live theatre. Remember that? A thing we used to go and watch? Well, after all this time I’d managed to get to an outdoor, drive-in piece of theatre in Billionaire Boy at Harewood House, Leeds on the first Sunday afternoon in May. At times, I didn’t think things like this would ever happen again. But finally, the day had come.
We’d stocked up on popcorn, Haribo, and soft drinks, and arrived as one of the hundreds of excited car-fuls of big and little kids to see this David Walliams treat.
“Toilet style funnies”
After Walliams had popped up on the large screen to introduce things, we had the Billionaire Boy himself Joe Spud on stage. He’d been given £1m for his birthday from his loo-roll maker dad. Not all is good for Joe though. Because he’s the rich-kid at school, he has no friends. And because of his dad’s business, he gets called names like Bum-Boy, and wants to change schools.
‘Bum’ humour is a fixture throughout the musically charged show. The first song of many explained how Joe’s dad had made his billions by inventing Bumfresh toilet rolls – the best toilet rolls in the world! And with hundreds of cars honking their horns to replace applause, the kids were loving the toilet-style funnies. The parents were smirking at the adult innuendo that was easily evident in the script too!
The show came at us at a nice pace, with jokes delivered all the way through. Scenery was simple and child-friendly, and the language was set so both adults and kids could enjoy the production to its fullest. But it quickly became apparent that Billionaire Boy, which I’d not read or watched before, had a solid underlying right-from-wrong message too. Bullying isn’t right, and true friendship is where it’s at.
Joe makes a friend at his new school called Bob who the Grub twins bully for being a bigger boy. Joe takes the bullies to one side and manages to stop them bullying Bob which is great…until Bob finds out how rich-kid Joe did it.
Billionaire Boy is the type of thing I’d have loved when I was at school. I remember the book Gargling With Jelly by Brian Patten. A poetry book full of naughty child humour, and this play reminded me of those days.
“Giggling and shrieking with horror”
With fun and frolics going on all over the stage, the kids were having fun. Many were entrusted by their parents to sit in the driver’s seat of their car, they enjoyed beeping horns, flashing lights and waving with wipers. And a highlight for me was Mrs Tiff the panto-ugly-sister-like dinner lady. She was hilarious every time she appeared, serving up treats to the kids at Joe’s school like jacket potato with sock cheese, Macaroni Snot and Dandruff risotto. With a dollop of Frog mayo on the side! In our car, and the surrounding vehicles you could see the kids giggling and shrieking with horror at those delights.
Thankfully the venue had a better choice of food for anyone who dared get out of their cars and brave the downpour. Reasonably priced hot dogs, snacks and fries could be bought safely, with social distancing measures in place. It was a well stewarded area, and despite the rain there was a very fun, family atmosphere.
As the end of the show draws in, Mr Spud eventually loses everything. His latest toilet roll giving a severe reaction to the cheeks of anyone who used it. Joe longed for a normal life, and when his dad wasn’t rich anymore, that’s what he got.
A fun story, and a great set-up that I think everyone will have enjoyed. We had to watch via the big screen for the most part, as being five car-rows back we couldn’t fully see the stage. It’d have been nice if that’d have been elevated higher, but nevertheless, it was great to go and enjoy live theatre again. It’s been a long wait, and this show was certainly a good way to return to it.
Even if it did make us all check our bums the following morning to make sure they hadn’t turned purple…!
Images: Mark Douet