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A Comparison Between ‘Billy Liar’ and a Group Improvisation on the Theme of Dreams

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  • Category: Play

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I have studied a number of plays which include the theme of dreams such as ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Billy Liar’. Studying these plays has been a part of my GCSE drama coursework.

The play ‘Of Mice and Men’ is set in the 1930’s of America, it is about two men that travel together and they work on a ranch. The theme dreams occurs a lot in the play. Many characters have dreams of a better life these dreams are classed as fantasy. The monologue ‘Jimmy’ was about a boy who believed he looked like James Dean and how he was a fan of him. Dreams is featured in this piece as fantasy also. Jimmy wants to be like James Dean. The play ‘Billy Liar’ is set in the 1950’s of the north of England in a lower middle-class house. The main character Billy lies a lot about his life and this leads to his dreams about having a better life. This type of dream is fantasy and it is a main part of the play.

These plays can be compared in a number of ways such as characters, setting, and dreams. The characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’ are quite realistic people. The characters in this play do not get involved with each others lives and do not show much affection for each other except from George and Lennie who care about each other. Compared to other plays the characters behaviour in this play is very different to the other plays as ‘Billy Liar’ shows characters caring for each other and getting involved with others lives. These characters are also more in depth than the rest of the plays. The setting in ‘Of Mice and Men’ does not have any similarities to the other plays because it is set in a ranch a couple of miles south of Soledad in the 1930’s of America. In this time people of this society move around a lot looking for jobs, they also travel alone. This is important because this affects the characters dreams. They dream about being a part of something, owning their own ranch and many other things but it is mainly about having a better life. This type of dream is fantasy this type of dream also occurs in the play ‘Billy Liar’ and ‘Jimmy’ these plays also have dreams of wanting a better life.

In the monologue ‘Jimmy’ there is only one character he is not shown as a in- depth character like characters from ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Billy Liar’. As the monologue only shows a bit of his character this is him wanting to be someone else. The other plays also include more than one character. ‘Jimmy’ is a monologue so it includes one character. The setting for ‘Jimmy’ stays in one place not like the other plays. The main setting is in Jimmy’s house. This is not similar to the other plays as they include more than one setting but ‘Billy Liar’ includes a setting which is a house. The reason for dreams in this play is because Jimmy is fascinated by his role model James Dean. This leads to his dreams, to want to be like James Dean. Jimmy wants a better life this is also similar to the plays ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Billy Liar’. This dream is a fantasy also like in the other plays I have studied.

The play ‘Billy Liar’ consists of many characters that get involved with each others lives and know a lot about each other they also care about one another. Compared to the other plays this is not similar because ‘Of Mice and Men’ shows characters not caring for each other and ‘Jimmy’ shows only one character. In the play ‘Billy Liar’ the characters are in-depth this is similar to ‘Of Mice and Men’ because the characters are well developed. The settings include a house, garden and Billy’s work place. The main setting in ‘Billy Liar’ is in a lower middle-class house this is in the north of England in the 1950’s.

This setting isn’t similar to the other plays because ‘Of Mice and Men’ includes a ranch and a bunk-house it is also set in a different time and place. But ‘Jimmy’ has only one main setting and that is the house this is similar to ‘Billy Liar’ as this play includes many settings but the house is the main setting. The setting of ‘Billy Liar’ is distinct because this leads on to the reasons of dreams. The dreams in this play are of wanting a better life. Billy has the dreams in this play and he wishes to be something better than a lower middle-class person. This is similar to ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Jimmy’ because the dream consists of wanting a better life. This type of dream is fantasy because Billy dreams of having a better life this is also similar to the plays I have studied because the dreams that are in the plays are fantasy.

As a group we used these plays as a starting point for our own work on dreams. But in our play a father has one chance to get his life back on track or carry on being miserable. The father is an alcoholic and is given the chance to stop drinking or carry on. This is shown as a dream. The type of dream we used is a premonition. The father is shown what will happen to him if he takes the drink or doesn’t. The people that show him these dreams are represented as angel and devil. The storyline in this play is very different compared to ‘Billy Liar’. This is because ‘Billy Liar’ is about a boy who wants a more interesting life and lies about his life to make him sound interesting. But his lies get him into awkward situations.

Our play is about a father who is an alcoholic and is currently having a distressing time with his life. He gets too choose whether to carry on drinking or to stop and get back on track with his life. The characters in this play compared to ‘Billy Liar’ are not in-depth characters and they are many characters all showing similar feelings and caring for one another. In ‘Billy Liar’ the characters show mixed feelings and are in-depth characters but the characters care for each other like in our play. So this shows some similarities. The setting of our play is in the park and house. There is some variety but it tends to be the house as the main part. Compared to ‘Billy Liar’ the setting is house, work and garden. This shows a bit more variety but not much. The setting is mainly in the house like in our play. So compared to our play there is some similarities. The time frame in our play does not really have a time frame as our play goes to the future. As in ‘Billy Liar’ the span is over two days. So our time frame was very different to ‘Billy Liar’.

The realism in our play is mostly realistic except from some parts like the dreams, because he is going to the future and the use of angel and devil isn’t very realistic. This is similar too ‘Billy Liar’ as it is mostly realistic except from some parts like when Billy suddenly goes into a dream and there isn’t much sense that he is in a dream. The use of dreams in our play is a big part of our play as it is in ‘Billy Liar’ as he dreams a lot about having a better life. In our play the dream is a big part of our play because our play is mainly an actual dream. But the reasons for dreams are different because in our play the dreams are there to give the father a second chance. In ‘Billy Liar’ the reason for dreams are because Billy wants a better life. The types of dream are also different because our play the dream is a premonition and in ‘Billy Liar’ the dream is a fantasy. The acting techniques used in our play are monologues, angel and devil and freeze-frames. These techniques have been used because monologues were to show the audience the father’s confusion and feelings at that moment and also to define the premonition and the angel and devil.

The angel and devil have been used to show the dilemmas of the premonition and to show both sides of it. Freeze-frames have been used to separate the scenes and to stop actors talking over each other so the audience wouldn’t get confused. In ‘Billy Liar’ the techniques used are only monologues this technique has been used to show that Billy is having a dream it has also been used to exaggerate Billy’s dreams. The techniques used in our play and ‘Billy Liar’ have one similarity and that is monologue. But the reasons why these techniques have been used have no similarities because monologues have been used to show in our play the fathers feelings and in ‘Billy Liar’ the monologue has been used to show Billy’s dreams. However there are also some themes that show similarities in the characters such as having consequences. This is similar as in ‘Billy Liar’ Billy lies a lot and this gets him into trouble this causes unpleasant results to his actions. This is similar in our play because the father is an alcoholic and it shows the consequences of his drinking. There is also another similarity that is both main characters have a chance to have a better life. In our play the father gets a chance to have a better life and give him a second chance. In ‘Billy Liar’ Billy has the chance to live in London and lead a more interesting life like he has dreamed of.

Having completed our piece of improvisation, I feel it was a good piece of work. I think we worked we well together but sometimes we weren’t always focused on what we was doing. I think what worked well in our improvisation is that when we actually performed it when something didn’t go to plan we improvised with it to carry it on. I also think our techniques worked well because we had certain reasons why we had put them there and the techniques proved to be effective for our reasons. The improvements that I would make on my improvisation would be to plan it more because at some points we didn’t really know what we were doing. I also would make sure all the characters had equal speaking parts as some characters didn’t have much to say. There is not many similarities between our work and the plays I have studied. But the similarities that are there are very significant such as the characters as the characters care for each other this is in ‘Billy Liar’ and our play.

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