Sunday, December 09, 2007

"It's a Wonderful Life" - December 2007

Despite this only being our second year attending Nonsenseroom's Christmas show at Rosslyn Chapel, it has very much become part of our Christmas festivities. Nothing quite beats sitting huddled up on a bench wearing hats, scarves and a blanket across your lap to get you in the Christmas spirit. Or maybe it was the hugely enjoyable show (and the mulled wine).

Adapted from the much loved film by Frank Capra, Simon Beattie's "It's a Wonderful Life" stays as close to the film as is practical for an intimate in-the-round setting, and works equally well for those familiar and unfamiliar with the original. Told largely through flashback we find George Bailey on the verge of a suicide attempt being 'saved' by his guardian angel (second class) Clarence. Events from George's past are brought to life, followed by the revelations of how different the world would have been had he never been born.

While a 'Christmas show', this isn't really an alternative to pantomime in the way that "Peter Pan" is - it's more 'proper' theatre with a seasonal theme, and it would possibly struggle to keep the attention of young children. But much like the source material, for older children and adults it's an absolute joy. Okay, so it might be more gentle humour than laugh-out-loud, but looking around the audience the smiles were pretty constant throughout the whole show. It's quite simply a beautiful tale, beautifully told.

Director Bruce Strachan really has his cast of nine earning their money, rushing around the darkened chapel, playing multiple roles and performing lightning fast costume changes. While Fraser C Sivewright plays George Bailey straight down the middle in the first Act, he really comes into his own as we see George's life collapse in Act 2. Sivewright makes the descent from regret to despair all too believable and at times uncomfortably intense, while also managing to make his scenes with Clarence seem effortlessly comic. Susan Coyle is delightful as his wife Mary, transforming in front of the audience from young love to supportive mother of four (invisible) children.

Colin Scott-Moncrieff copes wonderfully with the herculean task of playing Clarence the Angel, Potter the villainous mogul of Bedford Falls, and George's brother Harry. It's an incredible performance - and he gives independent life to each role (so much so that Waldorf hadn't spotted he was playing Potter!)

Natalie Bennett's performance in Nonsenseroom's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was my favourite female performance of 2006, and although she doesn't get the same chance to shine here due to playing so many roles, it's still an impressive performance - particularly as George's mother. Neil Kent also does well in numerous roles while Amie Walker, Kerry Cleland, Ben Winger and Tom Holmes provide strong support. Productions that make use of strong accents risk shattering belief in the piece with every line, and it's something I'm often irritated by, but here the whole cast hold their accents well throughout. The show isn't quite flawless - the off stage voice of "Joseph" could be clearer and the first act lacks a little in humour - but it's pretty close.

There is one minor problem with the evening from the audience side of things that I'd like to address. With a limited audience due to the venue size, many wearing gloves, it's difficult for the audience to really show our appreciation by generating a volume of applause, but trust me, if you look at the smiles during the curtain calls and listen to the chatter afterwards you'll know how much the audience enjoyed it.

As always with Nonsenseroom's shows at Rosslyn Chapel we recommend catching one of their 'special performances' if possible. These include a light buffet, mulled wine and a tour of the chapel and really make the evening an experience to remember.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is on at Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin (near Edinburgh) on 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 18th & 19th December, with 'Special Performances' on 14th and 21st.

Nonsenseroom are also taking the show to Greenock Arts Guild on the 17th, Eastgate Theatre in Peebles on the 20th, and East Kilbride Arts Centre on the 22nd.


Photo used with permission.

2 Heckles

Howgate villager said...

I've just returned from the opening night performance - absolutely fabulous!
The actors were superb, the venue was amazing (although cold!) and the mulled wine and mince pies just topped off the evening.
Thoroughly recommend the play, what a fantastic start to the festive season.

Thank you!

Statler said...

Thanks for letting us know that the 2008 version of the show is up to the usual high standards from Nonsenseroom. As we saw it last year we won't be going along ourselves but we've happily pointed friends in the direction of the show.