Review: It’s A Wonderful Life, East Riding Theatre, Beverley

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Whenever I watch Ge-
orge Cukor’s film of It’s a Wonderful Life (and I have, many times) I always hope that the ending will change.

It’s not that I do not want to see everything come good for the self-sacrificing George Bailey, but something in me wants more than anything to see the old skinflint Mr Potter end up with a jail term for trousering George’s $8,000.

He always seems to get away with it.

The 1946 film is famous with James Stewart in the lead as Bailey and Donna Reed as his wife.

The version at East Riding Theatre does not satisfy this itch either, but at least George (Andrew Joshi) has his faith in humanity restored and the excellent Harriet Benson, as the Angel, earns her wings.

Director Jake Smith has opted for straightforward story telling with some simple, but highly effective, stage trickery.

I liked the device of moving banners on a line to illustrate the corruption that ensues when the angel displaces George from his own history and the appearance of the gravestone for the brother that George’s absence condemns to a watery death.

Actors doubling up on roles always has the 
potential to confuse audiences.

However, Richard Avery as the hapless Uncle Billy and bar owner Mr Martini is sufficiently delineated, as was Clive Kneller’s Mr Potter and Gower.

The reliable Ed Ullyart comes up with sets that are flexible and evocative, in this case of small town America.

The production marks the East Riding Theatre diectorial debut of Jake Smith.

It’s a Wonderful Life ranks with White Christmas and Holiday Inn for seasonal cheer. Beverley audiences are sure to love this stage adaptation.

It’s a Wonderful Life runs at East Riding Theatre, Beverleym until Saturday January 6 with evening and matinee performances.

Tickets from £11.50 to £18.50 can be booked on 01482 874050.