What do you get when you cross a story of a boy who loves westerns with pop music and the Jeremy Kyle show? You get Billy With His Boots On. This is a show that tries to be controversial on a topic surrounding the reintroduction of the death penalty but is so muddled in its writing and direction that it simply fails to engage an audience.
The story revolves around Billy, the first person in Britain to be given the death sentence since its reintroduction. However, believing there has been miscarriage of justice, the host of a daily chat show (James Stanyer) very much in the vein of Jeremy Kyle steps in to tell Billy’s story.
Fusing drama, comedy and some musical numbers this is a meant to be a take on society that questions the repercussions that the death sentence carried while it was in effect (admittedly some 50 years have passed since it was removed). Most people agree that there were many miscarriages of justice carried out due to the death penalty and this is a show which seeks to explore that.
The show’s reliance on shock tactics - including a very misjudged gag on child Killer Ian Huntley - was clearly a step too far. The muddled script keeps changing direction and the essential nature of the show, which is reliant on Audience Interaction, wears thin pretty quickly.
Written by Tom Needham this is an adaption of a film script and looking at the show reflectively it would work much better in a filmic style. As it is, laboured scripting, an over reliance on audience participation and some very bad jokes mean that Billy With His Boots On is a complete misfire.
Its saving grace is the actors who give their best despite being let down by poor writing and ideas, especially Mungo Arney as Billy, who captures a real sense of childlike wonder. Overall this is one production that needs to kick off its shoes and get down to business in order to engage with its audience: until then it remains firmly Billy With His Boots On.