It’s a Wonderful Life
A radio play
By Tony Palermo
Bridge House Theatre
2 High Street,
London SE20 8RZ
8pm – Dec 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, 30, Fri 2 Jan, 3
4.30pm Sat 13 Dec, 14, 18, 20, 21
4.00pm Sat 27 Dec, 28, 29, 30, Sat 3 Jan, 4
Additional Performance: Sat 27 Dec, 8.00 pm.
24 – 26 & 31 December, January 1
Box office: 0208 133 0311
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Dec 12, 2014:
A wonderful miracle of a wonderful life
In south east London, a little miracle is burgeoning. London’s latest pub theatre, Penge’s Bridge House Theatre, has been taken over and re-launched by director Guy Retallack and his wife, actor Rachel Tucker.
For their first in-house offering, they’ve come up with a staged radio version of Frank Capra’s all-time Christmas favourite It’s a Wonderful Life. Even if you know the story back to front, this adaptation re-told as a live broadcast is as a heart-warming as it is tasty.
Shortened radio versions of Hollywood films such as It’s a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz were apparently all the rage in the late 1940s and ‘50s. CliMar Producer Rob Harris saw a modern production whilst living in Toronto and was determined, back once more in the UK, to follow suit.
His instinct proves spot on. This is a perfect seasonal pick-me-up. Capra’s story could have been made for the tiny upstairs pub room in which Retallack’s terrific cast, in front of two mics, transform themselves with wit and warmth into a whole community plus angels.
Capra’s story was an unashamed, even sentimental paean to US small town values.
His central character – modest George Bailey, eager to see the world and `do big things’ but trapped in Bedford Falls by family circumstances – is played here by Gerard McCarthy following in the intimidating footsteps of James Stewart. McCarthy though makes George completely his own exuding upright, moral decency which still doesn’t stop George, facing bankruptcy and prison, deciding to end his life.
Told from the point of view of a heavenly superior and `Second Class’ angel, Clarence trying to earn his `wings’ by stopping George’s suicide, Tony Palermo’s slimmed down version shows, with fewer examples than the film, but as effectively, Clarence convincing George just how useful his life has been to those around him.
It may sound corny with Scrooge like echoes of conversion thrown in. But It’s a Wonderful Life is as American as apple pie. The wonder is it’s being served up with such British dash and brilliance as to make it so utterly irresistible.
The new regime is off to a flying start.
It’s a Wonderful Life:
A radio play by Tony Palermo
The Bridge House Players:
Announcer/Mr Potter: Daniel Hill
Superintendent/Ma Bailey: Gillian Kirkpatrick
Clarence/Uncle Billy: Kenneth Jay
Young George/Harry Bailey: Danny Colligan
George Bailey: Gerard McCarthy
Mary/Zuzu: Sophie Scott
All additional roles by members of the company
Director: Guy Retallack
Writer: Tony Palermo
Casting Director: Anne Vosser
Sound Effects & Stage Manager: Susan Burns
Set Designer: Fiona Martin
Lighting Designer: Martin John Bristow
Produced by CliMar Productions and Bridge House Theatre Productions
First performance of this production of It’s a Wonderful Life at Bridge House Theatre Dec 9, 2014
See also twitter: @bhtse20 and @ CliMarProd
Facebook: Bridge House Theatre