This festive American holiday classic comes to life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”, written by Joe Landry, is exactly what it says it is with five radio play actors, supported by a sound-effects man and radio engineers.


“It’s A Wonderful Life- A Live Radio Play”

By The Festival Players
Loughborough Town Hall

This festive American holiday classic comes to life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of an ensemble that brings a few dozen characters to the stage, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve, but then he experiences Divine intervention. For anyone who has seen the original film, starring James Stewart, you’ll know what a slightly dark but wonderfully heart-warming story this is.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”, written by Joe Landry, is exactly what it says it is. Five radio play actors, supported by a sound-effects man, deliver the lines of all the characters from the movie, and is very different to any other theatre play that I have seen before. For anyone who has listened to plays that have been performed on the radio, i.e. “The Archers” this brings the sounds and sights of what happens within a live radio play performance to life.

As soon as I walked into the Victoria Room upstairs at the Town Hall, that in itself took my breath away. It is a gorgeous room and so very apt for this play. It's almost of ball room proportions

The room created an atmosphere in itself which really spilled over for the feel of this play. Now I know that this may be a sweeping statement but this may be the best I have seen from the Festival Players and I have seen some really excellent plays by them.

Directed by Jez Malpas, who is also responsible for the Sound Design as well as operating the sound simply transported me to another place altogether with the incidental music.

If you shut your eyes it would just be like listening to the film, but why on earth would you want to close your eyes when there is so much radio magic unfolding on stage.

Nick Grainger (Freddie Filmore), Tom Grainger (Jake Laurent),
Simon Page (Harry ”Jazzbo” Heywood),Persephone Leafe (Sally Applewhite), Victoria Price (Lana Sherwood), Jessica Hannah (Trixie Devine), Chris Marshall (Foley Artist) who provides all of the sound effects for the radio play and Valerie Schmitt-Li (Assistant) were just mesmerising. You really could not take your eyes off this cast the whole time they were on stage.

They all stayed in character from before you walked in to when they left the stage, and even in the two ten minute intervals, Nick (Freddie) would provide the countdown to being back "on air" again.

This play just goes to show the hard work that radio actors put in to bringing the emotion of their characters to life when you can't see them.They paint pictures in the listeners minds, and even though you couldn't see the settings from the film, with the wonderful sound design and the way the scripts were delivered, you could picture where the characters were at any particular stage of the play.

The excellent set design is by Andrew McGowan.Never having been in a radio play studio I had only imagined what it would look like and this set was just what I would have imagined it to be 

While being entranced by the actors, I was also captivated by Chris Marshall and the timing he has for slotting in those sound effects which was so smoothly done. Who would have thought just using an empty glass to talk into could emulate the sound of a telephone caller. As a radio person myself I was absolutely fascinated and enchanted by this whole play.

Costumes are so important in period pieces and as this is set in 1946 the costumes are of the era and very classy and in charge if this area is Liz Berrisford. This is after all the era when radio announcers wore tuxedos to present the news in. The nearest I get to this level of class is wearing a shirt and tie for my radio guests.

Keeping the reality for these kind of radio plays for this era, they all had promotional songs as jingles to promote the show's sponsor. All of these jingles, unlike today's 30 second jingles were all performed live on air and by the actors themselves, and this also was the case her. An education for a radio nut like myself.

This is a play for all ages and who wouldn’t fail to be affected in some way at this tale of despair being turned around by the help of another, and we learn that “no man is a failure who has friends”. A mantra for all ages and for any year.

If you aren't yet in that Christmas mood, go and see "It's A Wonderful Life" because "It's A Wonderful Play" which is not to be missed. It's truly magical.

The Festival Players are also supporting Rainbows Hospice for children and young people with this production.

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”, is at Loughborough Town Hall until Thursday 6 December 2018. You can also see this play on 12th and 13th December 2018 at the Century Theatre in Coalville, Leicestershire performed by The Festival Players.

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