Tuesday, 16 December 2014

REVIEW - It's A Wonderful Life


Gerard McCarthy as George. Below, the cast. Photo credit Anton Hewins

IT may be in its infancy but the Bridge House Theatre in Penge has a belter of a Christmas show for its opening season.
It's A Wonderful Life is a new version of the classic film which starred Jimmy Stewart.
Written by Tony Palermo and directed by Guy Retallack, the uplifting tale of everyman George Bailey, is staged as a live radio broadcast in front of a live studio audience.
Set in 1949 and featuring a cast of six it is introduced by a rather jolly radio announcer, played by a superb Daniel Hill.
There is even a red "On Air" light above the door, hand held cue "applause" signs and - in a genius move - pauses during the show for adverts from the theatre's local sponsors.
For those who don't know the story, it concerns one George Bailey from the small American town, Bedford Falls.
George has always had big plans and dreams for his life, even as a young boy. He wants to escape his small town and see the world.
But thanks to his loyalty to his family and friends, and his sense of duty, he sacrifices every one of his dreams to stay in the small town he grew up in and take on his father's business.
One day though something happens that makes him believe his life is not worth living.
The play opens in Heaven on Christmas Eve where the head angel tells rookie angel Clarence that he must save George from committing suicide - and that if he does he will earn his wings.
Clarence is then taken back in time to see how George has arrived at his fateful decision before he tries to stop him from carrying out the deed.
Taking on multiple roles, the entire cast is outstanding and they use the small stage well.
In particular Gillian Kirkpatrick as the head angel and Sophie Scott as Mary, George's wife both excel.
But it is Gerard McCarthy who shines as George. Showing a whole range of emotions with the dilemas George faces throughout his life, he successfully portrays him as a decent man who only wants the best for his family and for whom the audience is rooting for from the off.
Overall it is a glorious, entertaining and heart-warming story and in the intimate setting of the Bridge House Theatre this new version is an absolute winner.

It's A Wonderful Life is on at the Bridge House Theatre, High Street, until Sunday, January 4.

Tickets from £12.50. Visit www.bhtheatre.com or call the box office on 020 8133 0311.  

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