Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Theatre review: Harvey
This being a 1940s screwball comedy, misunderstandings quickly ensue and it's Veta who gets dragged away to be hosed down by a burly orderly (Youssef Kerkour.) But then exactly who gets to be called sane or insane is part of the point of Chase's play.
It's hard to write about Harvey without using the word "gentle" several times per sentence, as that's very much what territory we're in; no belly laughs, but a few chuckles. Lindsay Posner's production is strongly cast - Desmond Barrit's comic talents are rather wasted as the family's lawyer - but misses what few opportunities there are to give the piece a bit more bite: Elwood's behaviour can edge towards the creepy, Veta's money-grabbing motive for getting her brother sectioned is hinted at, and throwaway comments about shock treatment aren't exactly the laugh-a-minute they presumably were in 1944, but it's all played straight.
So we're left with a museum piece, but at least one whose heart is in the right place. Elwood's eccentricity is largely built around him trying to make people happy - he spends much of the play matchmaking the studly Dr Sanderson (Jack Hawkins) with his underappreciated nurse Ruth (Sally Scott.) Best known for its 1950 film adaptation, Harvey might have been best left that way, as something to stumble over on TV on a rainy afternoon. I'm not sure where the audience is for a big-ish-budget stage revival - judging from the tumbleweed blowing around TRH tonight, there isn't one.
Harvey by Mary Chase is booking until the 2nd of May at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.