Billy Elliot, Bristol Hippodrome

My daughter and I saw the live-screening of Billy Elliot in the cinema last year, and we both said we wanted to see it live, so I jumped at the chance to catch the show’s first UK and Ireland tour in Bristol.

The story is set in a northern town during the 1984/85 as the miners are about to strike against Margaret Thatcher's mine closures. Billy Elliot lives with is father (Martin Walsh), brother Tony (Scott Garnham) and his Grandma (Andrea Miller). Billy (there are four lads who play Billy, on this occasion he was superbly played by 11 year old Haydn May, from Bath) is forced to attend boxing classes, which his father has scraped 50p a week for him to attend. However boxing is not Billy’s thing and he stumbles into a girls’ “bally” class. He is encouraged to join in by teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Annette McLaughlin), who realises he has a natural talent. She nurtures his talent and arranges for him to audition at the Royal Ballet School, but when his father founds out, he is banned from ballet. Mrs Wilkinson does not give up. When Mr Elliot sees his son dance, he realises Billy has a prodigious talent and the family pulls together to get Billy to London for the audition. And the rest is history....

This is a show that will have you in tears, for example when Billy's dead mother appears, to tears of laughter. Billy's eccentric Grandma is hilarious, with her obsession with her pastie, along with her fruity language. There are also scenes when Billy and his gay friend Michael (Henry Farmer - who almost steals the show) dress up in girls clothing and do a tap routine, complete with giant size tap-dancing dresses; the Christmas cabaret with a huge Spitting Image style goose-stepping Margaret Thatcher.

I loved the music, composed by Sir Elton John, with lyrics by Lee Hall, which conveyed the grittiness and reality of the time, full of anger and pathos, but also had comedy, glitz and glamour.

The dance numbers were superb, particularly Billy's angry dance and the dream-like scene where Billy danced with his older self (Luke Cinque-White), to the dramatic piece of music from Swan Lake, which was absolutely stunning and the grand tap finale when everyone, including the miners, are dressed in tutus.

Just one word of warning, it may not be suitable for very young children, due to the language, but I think I think I can honestly say this is the best musical I have ever seen.

Runs until November 26.

Sue Cockrem