THE crowd at Lighthouse Poole was treated to a mixture of inspiration, good humour, grit, sweat and tears from the perspective of one of life’s ‘true heroes’.
Mark “Billy” Billingham is TV’s most experienced, highest ranking, most decorated, SAS leader and sniper.
He has also been at the centre of many a Hollywood celebrity’s protection squad. Quite a set of credentials to unveil at Lighthouse with stories that had a full theatre laughing and, at times, some crying.
The audience reflected a mix of what you might expect. Predominantly male and clearly some servicemen or ex-servicemen and their possibly reluctant spouses. If they were reluctant it was not for long. The host and producer of the evening was endurance world record breaker Mark Llewhellin, who in his own right has significant achievements in and out of the forces as an endurance athlete.
Billy started with informal banter and that was the flavour of the evening. He discussed his bumpy childhood and finding himself at home in the service. After more than two decades in the SAS he told of his close relationship as bodyguard to Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Russell Crowe, Sir Michael Caine, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn and many others. Each job had a story to tell and the time passed quickly as he rattled through his exploits.
After the first half there was an invitation to meet in the bar and have a photo. Billy was warm and friendly to everyone – quite the contrast to his professional talents. A couple of times he revealed a glimpse of his awesome ability to summon instant aggression but always steered away from any reference to specifics in his job as a Special Forces professional.
The second half was Questions and Answers with Mark as the mickey taker (very brave) and a special VIP guest of SAS man and heartthrob, Jay Morton, the ‘mole’ in the last Channel 4 reality series of SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Apart from Billy receiving an MBE by the Queen for leading a hostage rescue mission, a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery and leading a number of highly successful missions he is a surprisingly amusing and honest man. With the anecdotes of his charity work for under privileged people he left the auditorium feeling they could achieve anything.
This was a great show so don’t miss him next time around.
Review by Marian Feltham