by Joe Landry

The cast of It's a Wonderful Life

Photos by Joe Brown

Tue 13 - Sat 17 December 2016 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton NN1 3NL


Review: 'Good storytelling, characterisation and entertainment'

Tony Janney | Masque Theatre member

With a cast of five and a character list of - well - lots, it was open to speculation that this radio adaptation by Joe Landry of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life might lose its audience floundering somewhat in the soup of a thousand voices. Not so.

Of course, it does help if you can see their faces. Jof Davies (Jake Laurents playing our troubled hero George Bailey) looking every inch the part and sounding suspiciously like the chap in the film; Mike Street (Harry ‘Jazzbo’ Heywood who, along with other parts, plays the naïve and ever willing Clarence the trainee Angel) who, if only for his performance, thoroughly deserved his wings in the end; Lisa Shepherd (Sally Applewhite playing Mary, George’s wife) a chameleon of a performer who never disappoints; welcome addition to a proven cast, Lisa Wright (Lana Sherwood: Violet and others, young and old) proved herself; and last but not least John Myhill (Freddie Fillmore: nasty Mr. Potter, hapless Peter Bailey et al.) seemingly managing a range of expressions from pathos to gurning without breaking sweat.

Frission of excitement

A scene from It's a Wonderful Life

It was nice to see Jo Molyneux on stage (instead of hiding behind it) doing her stuff with the sound FX. I loved the train whistle. Very sexy.

Presented with Emma Barrow’s professional and functional studio set I took my seat on the front row with a frisson of excitement and anticipation.

The only disappointment of the evening was the number of empty seats behind me, that Wednesday evening at The Holy Sepulchre, but the front row was packed and eager and, prompted by an illuminated sign, we all applauded enthusiastically and, in a trice, transported to the WBFR studio for the evening’s entertainment.

Kevin Evans, sitting next to me, enquired, tongue in cheek, who the prompt was. Of course, I had to have a look. Without appearing to be dismissive, for me, there is something about a staged radio play that, though the actors may be well versed, with scripts in evidence comes the reassurance that nothing can go wrong. And so it was.

Commercial break

I can’t help but enthuse about the show. I was there to enjoy; the cast was there to help me; and Jo, discreetly, banging doors, crunching through snow and summoning up the wind, gave her all in creating the atmosphere.

Good storytelling, characterisation and entertainment. Smiles were ever present and the commercial break half way through the show was a hoot. I must admit I almost lost it towards the end when a tear welled up in my eye but Clarence came up trumps and the smiles were restored. And, as with all good Christmas entertainment, there was audience participation. I know the front row entered into the spirit of the thing.

I feel I should mention Matt Fell’s masterful direction but, not wishing to diminish his input, in truth I’m not sure I can. I rather think, having got his ingredients together, he gave it a quick stir and the whole thing inevitably took on a life of it’s own. A good play and a good cast.

The day I came was my birthday and, if you hadn’t guessed it, I’m really glad I treated myself.

A scene from It's a Wonderful Life

Preview: 'What could be more Christmassy?'

Matthew Fell | director

What could be more Christmassy than It's A Wonderful Life?

Masque Theatre brings the classic James Stewart Christmas feel-good movie to life in version written for the stage, re-imagined as a live radio broadcast with all production details such as a myriad of sound effects on stage as part of the broadcast adding to the interactive feel of the piece with plenty of 'studio' audience participation included.

Five actors bring over 50 characters to life in a production set on Christmas Eve in 1946 New York, the same year as the original movie was made and released. The script adapted by Joe Landry is based on the actual screenplay of the film, written by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling.

The cast includes Jof Davies, John Myhill, Lisa Shepherd, Mike Street and Lisa Wright.

Doors open from 7.00pm with mulled wine and mince pies being served prior to the show as the play will be performed without an interval. Performances start promptly at 7.30pm with audiences encouraged to arrive early.

Flyer for It's a Wonderful Life

The director, Matthew Fell, has previously directed Macbeth (2015), Much Ado About Nothing (2014), The Hypochondriac (2013), Clear Heels (2013) and Teechers (2012) for Masque Theatre.