Royal writer puts curse on ‘Backstairs Billy’ play
WHEN Backstairs Billy opens in the West End tonight, its celebrated director, Michael Grandage, claims the play will ‘look at a pivotal moment in the 50- year relationship between the Queen Mother and her loyal servant William ‘Billy’ Tallon’.
I hear that the real drama is, however, off stage.
Tallon’s biographer, Tom Quinn, is furious about the comedy at the Duke of York’s Theatre, with Dame Penelope Wilton as King Charles’s grandmother and Luke Evans as her Coventry-born manservant.
Quinn is considering taking legal action over the production, which, he claims, uses information from his 2015 biography without attribution or payment to him.
‘I’m convinced there’s no way they could have produced it [the play] without the book, as I’m the only one who has written a detailed book about his life,’ Quinn tells me.
‘To not consult it at all doesn’t add up. They [the producers] are a bit silly because they could have just rung me up and said, “We had a look at it, do you want to be a consultant — can we have a chat about it?” But to deny there’s any connection makes me cross. That’s why I refuse to go and see it.’
Quinn confirms his publishers wrote to the producers. ‘They [the producers] said basically, “It’s a work of the imagination”. They would say that, wouldn’t they?
‘To pretend there’s no connection on what I spent years of researching, it’s just very naughty. Without me, the play is rubbish. I knew William Tallon — I messaged him several times when I was writing books on other aspects of the Royals. Some information is only what he’s given to me or one of his oldest friends, who I interviewed at great length in my book.’
He adds of the comedy, set in Clarence House in 1979: ‘I’m going to put a curse on the play, and it will shut in two weeks.’ A show spokesman declines to comment.