Saturday 13 December 2014

It's a Wonderful Life - A Radio Play - Review

Bridge House Theatre, London


Written by Tony Palermo
Directed by Guy Retallack

The company of It's a Wonderful Life - A Radio Play

‘Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings’…

To take a much loved iconic movie and condense the magic of its story onto the immediate intimacy of the stage is one of the hardest dramatic challenges. Yet with the Bridge House Theatre's It's A Wonderful Life, writer Tony Palermo under Guy Retallack's assured direction achieves just that.

A latter day fable from the '40s, Palermo reduces the classic yarn to a radio play with a company of just six playing all the roles. In the small town of Bedford Falls, George Bailey is despairing of his life and about to end it all. Meanwhile in heaven angel Clarence, who has still not earned his celestial wings after 200 years of trying, is despatched to Earth on a mission to rescue George from his despondency. An emotional roller-coaster with both cast-members and audience in tears at times, without spoiling too much it's safe to say that there is an uplifting climax of redemption and the happiest of endings.

Opening the show Daniel Hill chats with the audience as himself and radio host as we wait for Radio IBC to go live ‘On Air’, before transforming into the story’s bad guy Mr Potter. Gerard McCarthy makes for a stupendous George, lifted convincingly from the depths of despair, whilst alongside him, Kenneth Jay's Clarence captures an almost cherubic desparation as he strives to make his mission a success. Sophie Scott is charming and commanding as George's wife Mary, whilst the wonderful and ever-versatile Gillian Kirkpatrick resplendent in red, is resourceful and imposing in a range of roles and accents. This is truly a special piece of theatre with Retallack lavishing an attention to detail, from sound effects and lighting to accents, props and musical underscore, all delivered by a company at the top of their game.

It is impossible not to be moved by this modern morality tale of decency triumphing over nastiness and the show's powerful message of how we all affects other people’s lives in ways we will never be aware of and cannot imagine. George Bailey represents everyman and woman and he touches us all for the better. It’s A Wonderful Life truly puts everyone young and old, in the Christmas spirit.

Runs until 4th January 2015

Guest reviewer Catherine Francoise

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