A stage classic about Billy Bishop is still essential viewing almost 40 years later

Actor Eric Peterson and composer John MacLachlan Gray discuss their play, Billy Bishop Goes to War, and why it's still relevant almost 40 years after it first premiered onstage.
Billy Bishop Goes to War, a play that first premiered almost 40 years ago, is making its return to stage at Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre. (Cylla von Tiedemann)

Billy Bishop fell in love with flying the first time he watched a plane land. He was just 21-years-old at the time, a young man looking for a purpose, and he found it looking at that plane. 

Bishop went on to become Canada's top flying ace in the first World War where he had 72 victories under his belt. Unlike so many of his friends, he survived the war and was celebrated for his accomplishments. But that experience can really change you, the way you see both life and death. 

That's why Eric Peterson and writer and composer John MacLachlan Gray turned Bishop's story into a Canadian stage classic. Billy Bishop Goes to War premiered in 1978 and has been staged many times since. Peterson and MacLachlan were not much older than Bishop when they first wrote and performed it. Almost 40 years later, they're back at Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre to put on that two-man show. 

Today, they join q guest host Gill Deacon on the show to discuss their working relationship and how Bishop's story still remains relevant. 

For more information about Billy Bishop Goes to War, head over to Soulpepper's website.

Eric Peterson and John Gray with Gill Deacon in the q studios in Toronto, Ont. (Melody Lau/CBC)

— Produced by Elaine Chau


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