Every Time A Bell Rings

The phrase "Every Time a Bell Rings" is well known and resonates especially at Christmas time: straight away we expect a link to the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, and are not disappointed.

There are some delightful moments and the attention to detail is considerable.

The saga begins with Clarence Oddbody before he meets George Bailey in the classic film, and the company intend this to be a prequel. In this, Clarence has tried many times to win his wings but has not been successful. Using the constellation talking device of the classic film, it is explained to us that he is to be sent to a group of Angels who form an elite squad, who can help him understand the ethos and the qualities needed in order to ultimately achieve his goal. Thus we are introduced to a portmanteau show, containing many different tales from this “crack team of Angelic educators” who each have a story to contribute.

This is a panto-esque show for the most part, although it changes in pitch and rhythm for each story, an effect which works really well. As a filmed live performance, this also includes some clever editing and use of film angles for use of asides, and in the Second World War story, real archive footage superimposed over the actors which made the scene suddenly appear to have many more people on stage.

The unique aspect of this show is that it involves real stories from the community local to the company in Bedford, including writing from the local community as part of the piece. This works both to its favour and to its detriment. It was fascinating to hear the true story of the Anzio Bell, from the Second World War; and the incredible story of Sandrine and Yarlswood Detention Centre. Both are powerful and heart wrenching, which juxtaposes just a little too much with the panto feel of some of the other content, and is a little too documentary especially in the latter. It also makes the show incredibly local, which is wonderful for Bedford of course, although it could be argued too parochial to translate nationally.

The references are based around Christmas 2020 and the up-to-the-minute rules and regulations in this pandemic world, including observations about six people at your Christmas table jokes which, they say in an aside would have worked two days before the show was shown live. Their horror at opening a box containing 2020 by accident and huge numbers of current jokes are very gratifying and genuinely funny.

There are some delightful moments and the attention to detail is considerable. These include a tableau of “Charlie’s Angels” on the command “Angel’s Assemble!”; the conversion from Clarence’s American accent to one from Bedford; and a tiny model of the street from It’s a Wonderful Life made from cardboard, which the actors shook icing sugar snow over - a street which showed the company’s previous production of Frankenstein the Panto at the cinema. There is also a pure panto section, and Neil Jennings is clearly one of the best Dames in any show, easily totally capturing the quintessential Dame characteristics. All the actors multi-role easily, but Neil Jennings steals it in this section.

This is a musical with heart and soul. We experience the whole gamut of emotions as we watch, and also learn new things. It does try to perhaps do too much: be a documentary and local community project alongside being a new national show; but its ambition can be understood. There is a lovely message for Christmas about loving and cherishing what you can, whatever your situation. It is hugely enjoyable, and well worth catching.

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Susanne Crosby

The Place Theatre, Bradgate Road

Every Time A Bell Rings

★★★
New Venture Theatre

Talk

★★★★
Brighton Open Air Theatre

The Amazing Adventures of Little Red

★★★★
Rialto Theatre

Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope

★★★★★
Rialto Theatre

Numbers

★★★★★
MEET: Brighton Spiegeltent

This Noisy Isle

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

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? 

Every Time a Bell Rings is a festive collection of heart-warming, emotional and comical stories inspired by the diverse Bedford community.  Using a mixture of live and pre-recorded performances, including interviews and stories, all collected and reworked in Mangled Yarn’s own raucous style – so expect lots of music, laughs and silliness thrown into the mix – the greatest gift we can give you this Christmas.  Alongside a live, socially distanced audience, Every Time a Bell Rings will also be available to Live Stream or Download at a later date, so even if you can’t join us live in person for whatever reason, we can still reach out to you… it turns out it IS a wonderful life. And remember, every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings.

Most Popular See More

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets