In such uncertain times we look for a diversion from reality, and this wonderfully inventive show, directed by Christopher Smart, hits the spot perfectly. Mangled Yarn Theatre Company took the bold leap of devising a prequel to arguably the greatest Christmas film ever made; It’s a Wonderful Life. They then relocated the action from Bedford Falls in the American Mid-West to Bedford in good old Bedfordshire. So the premise revolves around trainee angel Clarence Odbody and his 200 year quest to earn his wings. What if the powers-that-be decided to send him to Angel School in Bedford? How would he cope with some very traditional English fully qualified angels?
What they deliver is a brilliantly inventive and varied show featuring film, songs, poetry, sketches and a 20-minute pantomime. As you’d expect, the panto is jammed packed with topical references and heaven knows they have got plenty of scope! The narrative is poignant, funny and deeply thought provoking. It draws inspiration from stories within the local Bedford community that chime (see what I did there?) perfectly with the festive season. Particularly moving is the story of the Anzio Bell and brutal combat that took place in the Italian fishing port during World War II. Company 248 of the Royal Engineers, who were based in Bedfond, fought at Anzio. The show deserves immense credit for portraying the company’s story which will hitherto be unknown to many viewers.
Every Time a Bell Rings is a thoroughly enjoyable show made all the more impressive by the challenge of physically staging the production. Mangled Yarn had planned to run the show before a socially distanced audience in addition to an online stream. However, they managed only one performance before Bedford entered Tier 4 restrictions. Undaunted they got the performance filmed for an on-demand stream. Please catch it if you’re able to; this is the very essence of fringe theatre and proof that miracles do happen at Christmas!
Directed by: Christopher Smart
Produced by: Mangled Yarn Theatre
Every Time A Bell Rings is available to stream until 31 January. Tickets are £10 (individual) and £15 (group).