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Billy Bishop Goes to War


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A: John Gray with Eric Peterson Pf: 1978, Vancouver Pb: 1981 G: Drama in 2 acts; prose with songs S: Canada, England, and France, 1914–18; Canada, 1939 C: 2m, playing 17m, 2fBilly Bishop tells the story of his involvement in the First World War. In 1914 he proves an unpromising recruit at the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario. In 1915 he is transferred to an army camp in England, volunteers for the Royal Flying Corps, and is sent as an observer to France. Helped by an influential lady aristocrat, Bishop is made a pilot, and returns to France in 1916. Eventually, despite his constant clumsiness, he becomes a flying ace, shooting down several German aircraft. Hailed as a war hero, he goes to Buckingham Palace to be decorated. In a flashback he re-enacts a daring raid on a German aerodrome. Finally, Bishop gives a rousing recruiting speech to young Canadians to go to war in 1939.

A: John Gray with Eric Peterson Pf: 1978, Vancouver Pb: 1981 G: Drama in 2 acts; prose with songs S: Canada, England, and France, 1914–18; Canada, 1939 C: 2m, playing 17m, 2f

Based on the true story of a Canadian war ace, this play traces the career of an insignificant individual, whose sheer guts transform him into a daring war hero. All parts except the narrator/pianist are intended to be played by one actor. Despite the imprimatur of Mike Nichols, the play failed on Broadway, which was quite unsuited to the small-scale intimate revue format of the piece, with its gently ironical view of war, ending with the disheartening thought that in 1939 young men would again be sent to their deaths the other side of the world.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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