It’s A Wonderful Life at The Scottish Storytelling Centre Edinburgh, 43-45 High Street (Royal Mile) is an appropriately heart-warming story for this time of year. This stage production is brought to life by director Tamas Fazakas and Floating Brick Theatre.
This production is of course based on the much loved 1946 American Christmas fantasy drama film directed by Frank Capra starring James Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as Mary Hatch. This famous film is itself based on the short story and booklet “The Greatest Gift”, written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939.
The transition of any work from film to stage is never an easy one and, all too often, the results are less than successful, but here, with limited resources and budget, Tamas Fazakas has managed to capture the spirit of this story and its message that none of us ever truly realise just how important our lives have been and how many people have been touched for the better by us being in this world. In this story, George Bailey, at the lowest point in his life, does get the opportunity via the intervention of his guardian angel to find out what his never being born into this world would mean to the many people his life would now never touch.
For anyone taking on the role of George Bailey when James Stewart has made the film role iconic is going to be a difficult task, but Tamas Fazakas brings a similar humble and gentle touch to his “George”, and the results are pleasing and give this story the human touch that it needs. Clare McVay as George’s sweetheart and later wife is also a much needed addition to this at times sugar coated fantasy story that always wants to see the best in people.
By its very nature, a small theatrical production like this is going to have to do without a lot of the extra support characters and scenes that a film has the luxury of affording, but Ben Blow is very good as the greedy and grasping Mr Potter, and Malcolm Jamieson does a good job with the double roles of George’s father and uncle. Samuel Thorne, Callum Douglas and Angela Milton take up our other multiple roles here, with Angela giving us an interesting guardian angel too.
This production is one that can so easily be overlooked amidst all the other big budget productions in theatres at this time of year, but with limited resources, it is achieving more than many stage productions that I have seen this year with access to a far larger budget.
Review by Tom King