A SPOT of transatlantic detective work has led to Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre becoming the first theatre in the UK to stage a version of one of the most popular Christmas films of all time.

Next week, It’s A Wonderful Life will be performed at the Hyndburn theatre, with a professional and semi-professional cast.

“It marks a turning point for us as a theatre to produce this quality of work,” said artistic director Gayle Knight. “It’s something we will be looking to do more of in 2018.”

The production will be directed by Sophie Fitzpatrick.

“We were thinking about what we could stage which would complement our family pantomime,” she said. “It’s a Wonderful Life has always been one of my favourite films and I said ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if we could stage that’.

“The problem was getting a licence to put it on as a play as we were told it was only available in America. There is a musical version and a radio adaptation but the only hope we had of putting on a stage play was getting permission from the man who had adapted the film into a straight play and held the rights.”

The venue managed to track down James W Rodgers to his home in Kentucky.

“We got in touch and he was so thrilled that we had asked him that he was more than willing to agree for us to use his adaptation,” said Sophie. “The problem was that he only had one copy of it and it was all typed up on a typewriter; he didn’t have anything he could email.”

The original adaptation also had over 40 different characters in it. So through phone calls and emails, Sophie worked with James on making it into something which would work for a cast of 10.

“It took me three weeks to write the final version which I sent to James, so he now has something which he can send out to other theatres,” said Sophie.

The stage adaptation - featuring George Bailey, who is visited by his guardian angel on Christmas Eve as he contemplates suicide - remains true to the film which starred James Stewart.

John Kirby is tasked with taking on the role of George with Cassandra Webster as Mary and Richard Quinn as Clarence.

“It is such a huge privilege for us all to be able to stage this for the first time in the UK,” said Sophie. “And it’s the perfect production for Christmas.”

It’s a Wonderful Life, Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre and Theatre, Friday, December 15 and Saturday, December 16. Details from 01254 398319 or www.civicartscentre.co.uk