As the Christmas season approaches, so does an eclectic line-up of Christmas presentations, so its always worth checking your local theatres to see what’s on offer. One gem, which has been touring South Wales over the last few weeks is Lighthouse Theatre and Pontardawe Arts Centre’s presentation of the classic film, It’s A Wonderful Life, adapted as a 1940s-style live radio play is performed in front of a studio audience.
Featuring an ensemble of six actors and a live foley artist creating the sound effects, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. It takes the help of an angel, Clarence, for George to have a change of heart and understand the meaning of life as well as the true spirit of Christmas.
Set to a backdrop of a 1940s style radio studio, complete with microphones a table with sound effects laid out and neon lights to indicate when the audience should applause and when the show is on air, Lighthouse Theatre’s presentation of It’s A Wonderful Life immediately comes across as an immersive and interactive experience for the audience. We are reminded that we can laugh when we feel we want too and clap when the light flashes as this will enhance the enjoyment for the listeners at home.
Then the actors take to the stage, Adrian Metcalfe as Mr Harry Heywood, Sonia Beck as Miss Myrtle O’Hara, Joanna Lucas as Miss Lana Sherwood, Melangell Dolma as Miss Sally Applewhite, Daniel Llewellyn-Williams as Mr Jake Lawrents and Kieran Bailey as foley artist, Mr Bert Schultz. Resplendent in 1940s stylised clothes with convincing American accents, the Old Time Radio magic kicks in as the actors are introduced by James Ifan as Mr Freddie Filmore with seconds to the beginning of the broadcast.
The power of the radio play depends on a focused performance from the actors to take the listener to the centre of the story. As I watch the ensemble cast, I find myself intently listening to them as they create child-like voices to illustrate the drama of George Bailey’s early life. The diverse cast quickly change to adulthood and adapt an array of characters, confident, drunk, flirtatious, comic and impudent. They cleverly provide low-key background murmuring as meetings take place, all expertly halted as the action changes to another room and a sound effects door slams shut.
The atmospherics of It’s a Wonderful Life transport the audience to the action as cars start, windows break, glasses clatter and strong winds blow. George’s dramatic story unfolds as the actors continue to perform and assist the scripts atmospherics with further sound effects.
The action is occasionally broken up with sponsorship interludes for Bremel Hair Tonic and Dux Toilet Cake. These musical diversions lighten the more dramatic scenes of the script and are a lovely homage to the American Radio broadcasts of the 1940s.
A traditional, Christmas story performed with vivid and excellent presentation, Lighthouse Theatre’s Soundstage performance of It’s a Wonderful Life., is a theatrical experience audiences will remember for years to come!
The show continues at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre on December 12 and concludes with two performances in Aberystwyth on December 13-14. Visit http://www.lighthouse-theatre.co.uk for details.