Review: Dewsbury Arts Group hits West End standard in 'It's A Wonderful Life'

Dewsbury Arts Group has once again provided West End standards of drama at a fraction of the price in its David and Judith Wood Theatre with its production of Mary Elliot Nelson’s stage version of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 7:00 pm
Dewsbury Arts Group's production of 'It's A Wonderful Life'. Pictured from the left are Anya Firth, Mark Bailey and Nick Bailey

The play tells the story of George Bailey, played with touching sympathy by Nick Bailey, whose youthful ambitions to move out of small-town America and achieve great things seem to be frustrated at every turn, to the extent that he is driven to contemplate suicide.

He is rescued from despair by his Guardian Angel who wins her wings by showing him that what he has achieved in life demonstrates that he is by no means “worth more dead than alive”.

The flying-helmeted Angel is played with touching simplicity by Anya Firth, a member of Dewsbury Arts Group’s Youth Theatre.

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Anya also morphs successfully into several other roles: gangling teenager, vamping floozie, besotted girlfriend, dutiful wife and concerned mother, all via rapid off-stage changes of costume and on-stage changes of personality. Whatever her role, we love her.

Two other actors also play multiple roles using the same changing techniques and with equally convincing effects.

Steve Goddard is most often the grasping banker and slum landlord who is trying to gain control of, and then close down, the Baileys’ Buildings and Loan Society.

Mark Bailey is most often “Uncle Billy”, the hapless loser of $8,000 which brings the Buildings and Loans Society to the brink of bankruptcy and drives George to the brink of ending his life.

Chris Ward’s production is snappy and succeeds in carrying-off a somewhat wordy script with pace.

The all-purpose set is simple but effective and there are some clever synchronised audio and visual effects which are carried out with spot-on timing.

Thanks to Dewsbury Arts Group for entertaining us with a work which both throws light on contemporary events and brings a lump into the throat with a feel-good ending, reminding us of what Christmas should be about.