Meet the guy behind Billy Bishop Goes to War

Composer John Gray will answer questions at a screening of the movie Billy Bishop Goes to War in Maple Ridge next week

The Golden Ears Movie Series screens Billy Bishop Goes to War next week.

The Golden Ears Movie Series screens Billy Bishop Goes to War next week.

Meet award-winning writer and composer John Gray at a screening of Billy Bishop Goes to War at the ACT in Maple Ridge next week.

Gray and Eric Peterson’s Governor General’s Award–winning, two-man musical premiered in Vancouver in 1978. It has since played to audiences all over the English-speaking world.

It’s most recent revival, which once again featured Gray at the piano and Peterson giving a marathon portrayal of no less than 18 different characters, was a major hit for Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre in 2010.

That production led to this intimate and entertaining new film by veteran Canadian director Barbara Willis-Sweete, which rewrites Billy Bishop’s story along the way to account for the increasing age of the performers.

The film looks at Bishop at the age of 65, which is Peterson’s age now and an age the real Bishop never reached (he died in 1956, at 62).

Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, First World War flying ace Bishop grew up a fighter, though not much of a team player; his preference for more solitary pursuits was perhaps a sign of things to come.

At 17, he entered the Royal Military College of Canada, where he was deemed a “convicted liar, a cheat and the worst student — the bottom of the barrel.” Nonetheless, he would soon reach the top of his military vocation.

Over the course of the war, Bishop shot down seventy-two enemy planes, ultimately becoming the Royal Flying Corps’ most honoured member.

The short film Bone Wind Fire, directed by Jill Sharpe, will be shown prior to the feature film. This 30-minute film takes you on a stunning visual journey from Mexico City to the American Southwest and the rainforests of British Columbia and pays homage to the inner lives of three important modern painters: Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr.


• Billy Bishop Goes to War plays the ACT in Maple Ridge at Monday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $11.