Sir Billy Connolly, Scotland's favourite comedian, is to be honoured at the age of 80 by a new stage production described as "a love letter to the Big Yin" from the Scottish people.

Leading Scottish theatre-maker Gary McNair, who has written and will perform in Dear Billy, which tours Scotland on its world premiere from May 16, said: "There will be a seat for Billy every night and we hope he can come along and see just what he means to the people of Scotland.”  

The play is being presented by the National Theatre of Scotland and will be directed by Joe Douglas.

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The production was announced last year to mark Connolly’s 80th birthday year.

It was described today as a unique touring production that will evolve on the road. It will travel across Scotland, playing local theatres and art and community centres, building up to a final run at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, in June.

The Herald: Billy ConnollyBilly Connolly (Image: Matt Crossick/PA Wire)

Sir Billy, who was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for lifetime achievement last year, has recently declared that he was doing “great” in his battle with Parkinson’s.

He was diagnosed with the degenerative disease a decade ago.

“There’s people doing a lot worse than me and I’m doing just dandy. I’m just grateful that only the left side shakes. I think I’m doing great.”

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Announcing the tour dates today, the NTS said that Connolly needed no introduction and was a national treasure. From the shipyards of the Clydeside to his trailblazing and extraordinary stage and movie exploits, he is woven into Scottish culture.  

"Everyone has a Billy Story", the theatre added. "An expert team of story gatherers has created a collection of these moving and hilarious tales. Gary McNair ... has turned these stories into a special show celebrating the Big Yin and what he means to us.

"Gary is hitting the road with musicians, collecting more stories from audience members which may become woven into the show as the tour progresses.  Each show offers a unique chance to audiences, to laugh, sing, and celebrate the man and the legend".

McNair said: “It’s an honour to be doing this show. To take on a subject and a figure as beloved by the public as Billy, with our National Theatre is a very proud moment indeed and one that I will cherish.   

"It has been a joyous production to be a part of with so many wonderful artists involved in its research and development.  I hope we can continue that feeling of joy when we get on the road and share it with audiences up and down the country."

Jackie Wylie, Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland said: “Billy Connolly is arguably Scotland’s most-loved artist. We thought it fitting that his National Theatre should honour him with a theatrical love letter, in the form of a special new show.  

"Dear Billy is created with the words, collected from the people of Scotland about what Billy means to them and written and performed by the brilliant Gary McNair.” 

McNair, a Glasgow-based writer and performer, is a three-time Fringe First winner and has produced work for and with many of Scotland’s major theatre companies.

His plays have been translated and performed all over the world, from Germany to Japan, from New York to New Zealand.

His work includes A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, Square Go, McGonagall’s Chronicles Which Will Be Remembered for a Very Long Time, and After The Cuts.   

Joe Douglas is a theatre director, playwright and performer whose work includes Clear White Light, Death of a Salesman, Spoiling, The BFG, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Educating Ronnie, Letters Home, The Red Shed, Stand By and The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. 



* The tour dates for Dear Billy are:

Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock, Tues 16 May

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thurs 18 to Sat 20 May

Ayr Gaiety, Tues 23 May

Dundee Rep, Wed 24 May

East Kilbride Arts Centre, Tues 30 May

Heart of Hawick, Fri 2 June

Theatre Royal Dumfries, Sat 3 June;

Lyth Arts Centre, Tues 6 June & Wed 7 June

Strathpeffer Pavillion, Thurs 8 June

Nairn Community & Arts Centre, Fri 9 June

Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Sat 10 June

Lanternhouse, Cumbernauld, Wed 14 June

Dunoon Burgh Hall,  Sat 17 June

Perth Theatre, Tue 20 June

King's Theatre Glasgow, Thurs 22 to Sat 24 June.