Arts & Culture Film, Theatre & TV

Billy Connolly’s Big Banana Feet opens across the UK on May 10th

  • May 1, 2024
  • 3 min read
Billy Connolly’s Big Banana Feet opens across the UK on May 10th

Billy Connolly’s Big Banana Feet opens theatrically on May 10th to tie-in with its release on BFI Blu-ray later this month. This is truly hilarious documentary magic. A livener of Whiskey in the BFI bar set me up before the screening. Near me, two mature beard strokers were discussing an obscure Eastern European filmmaker, one Nobin Botgag. Possibly regarding an upcoming BFI season? Upon repetition, I realised that the pair were, in fact, talking about Billy Connolly’s predilection for, er, “Knob and Bot gags”.

Billy’s Connolly’s Big Banana Feet/BFI Distribution 2024 reversion Trailer

TV’s Muriel Gray once surmised that Rik Mayall and Billy Connolly had both truly, “out-Willy waved and out-farted one another”. Before the BBC TV series Bottom, there was certainly no contest. Billy had already won. Hands down. Leaning forward.

A key question, however, remained. How many old farts would be lingering downstairs in the BFI’s screening room? Had some remained after The Wind In The Willows? As Big Banana Feet began, I lapsed back into my own 1970s alter ego, Airy Wiffin, surreptitiously blaming the creaking seat before wafting back into 1975.

Mid-1970s Glasgow, Dublin, and Belfast provided a window into another timezone. Glasgow’s center was filled with Municipal Victorian splendor and legendary Pubs; whereas Ulster’s Belfast remained the epicenter of ‘The Troubles’ with British Troops situated on every street corner. It’s against these grey Metropolitan backdrops that Big Banana Feet is set. The first significant documentary to be made about Billy Connolly. Directed by an Edinburgh-based independent, Murray Grigor, with his Scottish film crew following ‘The Big Yin’ throughout his first stand-up tour of Ireland.

Shot in the tradition of ‘Direct Cinema’ – a documentary technique utilised by the likes of Americans such as Albert Maysles and Fred Wiseman – this ‘walk-and-talk’ of observational filmmaking was sympathetically edited by Patrick Higson, a regular doppelgänger of the film’s notable Scottish cameramen, Jan Pester and Mark Littlewood. They captured the essence of Billy at a career turning point, shortly after his network TV debut on Parkinson.

The hairy bearded one, however, was not unique in his personal ‘look’ back then. In 1975, almost everyone had long hair and beards. “Even the women,” added Billy, a decade later. During these shows, singer-songwriter Billy was also filling his Big Banana Booted stand-up with his wryly written songs. Always neatly accompanied by his banjo playing. This aspect lingered on from his days touring as a ‘Humblebum’ with Gerry Rafferty, then noted for Stuck In The Middle With You and later Baker Street.

The daily rigmarole of walking up endless flights of stairs backstage is met, upon conclusion, by hordes of white-coated tea ladies, arriving with metal teapots that won’t pour properly. Real-life Mrs. Doyles from TV’s Father Ted. Grigor savors these moments as Billy milks ‘teatime’ for all it’s worth. Truly hilarious documentary magic.

Throughout, Billy Connolly is seen on the streets chatting with the troops, lingering in pubs, and signing autographs. His warmth and affability shine through at every turn. Both onstage and off. Fully remastered and screening across the UK for the very first time, Big Banana Feet is showing at nearly 100 cinemas from May 10th. Don’t miss this hitherto ‘lost’ gem.

You’ll laugh yourself silly.

About Author

Henry Scott Irvine

The published author of Procol Harum's hardback Omnibus Press biography, Henry Scott-Irvine's writing began in the script departments of the British film industry. He continued as a Film & TV 'Music & Arts' researcher. He has a long background in published journalism. A radio producer-presenter since 2009 as well as a producer of the award winning documentary film Tales From Tin Pan Alley. He's a successful campaigner for securing listings and preservation for London's music & film heritage sites.

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