This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
In this re-telling of a classic Christmas tale the action is transposed from 1940s America to Howth Summit on Christmas Eve in contemporary Dublin. The gist of the story remains the same: it is Christmas Eve and a man, down on his luck, contemplates taking his own life, only to be met by a stranger who helps him to see that his life is more valuable that he believes. The man, Georgie (Stephen Kelly), has lost a lot of money due to the recession. Not only that, but he was responsible for other people, including family and friends, losing their money too. In a pessimistic state he only focuses on the negative things that he feels he is responsible for. That is until Laurence (Gerard Byrne), an apparent bar-fly with slight eccentricities, sidles up to him for a drink and they begin a conversation that might turn Georgie’s life around.
Based on the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern , which was the source for the subsequent film It’s A Wonderful Life, Duggan has worked well at keeping the original intact while introducing modern elements, namely the fall of the Celtic tiger and its aftermath, which remains a real issue for people throughout the country. Duggan has a little fun with Georgie’s name in this version; Georgie Travers being a reference to the original story character and also the actor who played Clarence in the 1946 film, with Clarence becoming Laurence in the Bleedin’ version. Even though the topic at hand is dark the script is fun with plenty of witticisms and Dublin humour. The dialogue flows easily between Kelly and Byrne, both of whom are well cast in their roles. Byrne’s portrayal of a cigar smoking, whiskey drinking angel trying his best to earn his wings is oddly believable and a source for much humour in the piece.
This short play is not without nostalgia and sentiment but is thankfully genuine and veers away from being Pollyanna. It’s A Wonderful Bleedin’ Life serves as an antidote to the Christmas hustle and bustle that can be overwhelming and commercial. Its central message of appreciating the positive things in life and acknowledging one’s own self-worth is welcome at what is, for some, not the most wonderful time of the year.
Writer: Philip Van Doren Stern
Adaption: Gary Duggan
Director: Gary Duggan
Runs until December 19th in Bewley’s Café Theatre @ Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin.
Image: contributed by Bewley’s Café Theatre