The story of how Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class, earned his wings is a familiar one. But even an angel has to learn their trade, and that’s a much lesser told tale. Join Clarence in his angelic education, as his celestial colleagues teach him the ropes, offer him advice and regale him with their own stories of how they gained their flying licences. Will he be ready when the call finally comes?
This production of 'Every Time a Bell Rings' was initially meant to be performed live in front of an audience, whilst simultaneously streamed for those watching at home. The county town of Bedford however was moved into Tier 3 on Thursday, meaning that the production would have to be all digital. The show faced further hurdles in the following days, due to technical problems and the introduction of new COVID-19 regulations in relation to Tier 4. The team involved laughed in the face of adversity however, and continued working to ensure that theatregoers would have the opportunity to see this highly-anticipated production. They ultimately succeeded, going on to create a filmed production of the show that they could then release to the wider public. The perseverance demonstrated in this particular production really is admirable, especially in these turbulent and uncertain times. Theatre is facing more challenges than ever before, and the devotion of the Mangled Yard Theatre Company should be applauded. They worked exceptionally hard to ensure they could bring joy to those in need of it, and that in itself is extremely commendable.
There are some really important messages explored throughout the course of the show, particularly in relation to fairness and justice. The most striking part of the entire production comes towards the end of the show, which explores recent controversy related to the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre. The aforementioned establishment is a detention centre for foreign nationals prior to their deportation from the UK, and is located in Bedfordshire. It has previously been alleged that the way in which the centre is run is unacceptable, and the show sheds light on the issue through a series of pre-recorded messages. I wasn't entirely familiar with Yarl's Wood, so I was intrigued to hear this particular story. It's important to raise awareness of issues such as these, and the show tackles it skilfully.
My only critique for this production is that I did feel that there were certain missed opportunities that would likely have enhanced the overall production. The most prominent example of this was the Boris Johnson parody, who appeared throughout the pantomime segment. In this particular sequence, Johnson is given the role of 'pantomime villain', and is referred to as the 'Evil Baron Boris'. This topical skit had the potential to create a clever satire on the incumbent Prime Minister, though ultimately came up a little short. The actress performing the role did little to change her accent in order to impersonate Johnson, which in turn made this segment feel like something of a missed opportunity. I did feel that small additions such as these may have enhanced the comedic elements of the show, and thus benefitted the production as a whole.
In spite of this, it is still wonderful that this production is available to view, and it's great that audience members had the chance to watch it in the face of these new restrictions. Every Time A Bell Rings is a show for the whole family, and is well-suited to the Christmas period.
Thanks for reading!
-The Basic Theatre Reviewer