|David Bamber as William R Chumley and James Dreyfus as Elwood P Dowd|
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
First produced on Broadway over 70 years ago before memorably being made into a movie in 1950 starring Jimmy Stewart, Harvey’s an odd proposition, focussing as it does on one man’s friendship with a giant invisible rabbit (decades later Donnie Darko put a much more sinister twist on the idea). Clearly it was all a bit of a challenge for its original writer, Mary Chase, who apparently took over two years to finish it. Who knows, maybe she was busy trying to grow some giant carrots? Given the subject matter maybe she was smoking some too...of the Camberwell variety that is. Ahem.
|James Dreyfus as Elwood P DowdPhoto Credit: Manuel Harlan|
In the intervening years it’s gone on to become a much loved classic though, a gentle comedy about an equally gentle man seemingly lost his own little world, a role that seems to suit James Dreyfus perfectly in this charming revival. With frequent knowing asides to his sidekick Harvey, adding just the right dose of camp to proceedings, he’s a different kind of Elwood to Stewart’s version but no less loveable. Maureen Lipman, who’s happily becoming a bit of a regular at The REP, takes full advantage of the more farcical aspects of the production, gamely trying to keep Elwood out of the way during a society function and then, having been accidentally sectioned and released, staggering around on stage in a state of dishevelment. Uniquely though the real star of the show (due entirely to the convincing cast of course) never utters a word, makes a gesture or pulls a face...
|Maureen Lipman as Veta Louise Simmonds|
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
Part parable, part farce if there’s a lesson in Harvey its not to lose that childlike wonder that shrivels up when we all reach our teens (or, given the insidious internet the first time we log on...which seems to be mere moments after plopping into the world these days...welcome to the age of the digital dummy). Then again perhaps the lesson’s not to be afraid to be yourself, despite what everyone else thinks. Okay so old Elwood likes a drink or three but he sticks by Harvey, and vice versa, throughout so convincingly that eventually others start believing. Hmmmm, maybe it was the interval wine but I too could swear I saw a pair of ears popping up over the door in Act II...could it be...no...surely not?!
Kudos to Peter McKintosh and team for the set too, impressive stuff. Several turns of the rotating stage took us from Elwood’s grand mansion to the local sanatorium and then on to a bar so convincing I very nearly leapt up and ordered a double martini.
Heartwarming and humorous, with some genuinely ‘bunny’ moments, this particular Harvey’s charms will linger long after the curtains have fallen. There’s an all too brief run at The REP now before transferring to the West End’s Haymarket Theatre too, so you’d better ‘hop to it’!
Harvey is on at The REP until Saturday February 21st. Tickets here!