It’s a Wonderful bleedin’ Life – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by Frank L.
WRITTEN & DIRECTED by Gary Duggan
PERFORMED by Stephen Kelly and Gerard Byrne
The pedigree of this play, written by Gary Duggan, is clear from its title with the addition of the adjective “bleedin’” indicating that it is probably set in Dublin as that adjective is much beloved by Dubs. As the programme notes make clear it is based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip van Doren Stern, published in 1943, which was the inspiration of Frank Capra’s movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” which has since its release in 1946 has become part of the Christmas traditions. The transposition of the story to Dublin in the aftermath of the damage wreaked on ordinary Irish people by what turned out to be the nonsense of the Celtic Tiger was not dissimilar to the damage wrought on American society by the Depression of the 1930s. Duggan with astuteness places Georgie (Stephen Kelly) as an innocent with a good heart in suburban Dublin with a wife and two kids. Georgie did not see the collapse coming and is riddled with guilt. Laurence (Gerard Byrne) is the unlikely angelic personage who is able to demonstrate to Georgie what is and what is not important in this life. He is able to demonstrate to Georgie that he has also carried out, albeit small, some very valuable deeds of which he can be proud.
For aficionados of the film there will be pleasure seeing how Duggan plays homage to the ever green movie but for those who do not know the movie the play stands confidently on its own. It is pleasant to imagine that it may become part of the theatrical Christmas tradition as Capra’s movie has become part of the cinematic one. No one in 1946 could have imagined its eternal appeal.