“There’s more to football than football” states one of the characters in NLP Theatre Company’s production of Des Dillon’s play, Singing I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim; a humorous, often poignant, snapshot of the pervasive, sectarian divide which still exists within the west of Scotland.
Incarcerated due to non-payment of fines, fervent Celtic supporter, Tim (Colin Little), is joined by cellmate, Billy (Scott Kyle), a diehard Rangers’ follower. From the outset, their ‘natural’ antagonism and frustration – they’re missing the clash between their teams – is apparent, as both vie to insult and offend the other in playing out their stereotypical, social roles within the confines of their cell. Attempting to ‘referee’, is warder, Harry (James Miller), a man in the midst of a personal crisis.
Whilst much of the humour, played to the backdrop of the sparse set, is indeed funny – if somewhat predictable – and the views, opinions and language of Tim and Billy are often harshly expressed, one is strangely drawn to these two different, yet curiously similar, characters, clad in their tribal team-colours.
Are they really so different? Do they perhaps have more in common than the same sponsor on their respective shirts? This is something which is explored as the gulf which exists between them is gradually bridged: “If you’re an Irish Scot then I’m a tangerine banana” laughs Billy, as Tim parades back and forth wearing a toilet-roll ’sash’ in parody of a marching Orangeman.
The play touches on aspects of family and upbringing, racism and sexual orientation as the pair attempt to find common ground and some form of resolution – the catalyst being the crisis within Harry’s family. The trio turn in a strong, convincing performance, but one feels the script could perhaps have better explored some of the more deeply-damaging, corrosive aspects of sectarianism.
Interestingly, the divisive nature of the play’s subject matter seemed to be echoed by sections of the audience, in enthusiastically applauding the viewpoints espoused by their ‘own’ Billy or Tim. There is, indeed, “more to football than football”.