Elwood P. Dowd is an interesting fellow. He’s pleasant, friendly and has a wonderful time wherever he goes and whomever he meets. His main aim in life is to enjoy peoples company and help where and when he can. Thankfully he is aided in this task by his great friend Harvey, a giant white rabbit that only he can see. Not everyone sees Elwood (nor Harvey for that matter) as the harmless chap he is, and soon family and friends attempt to break the friendship to try gain control of his sanity and his money…
Known to many, Harvey is a very gentle story befitting Sunday afternoon drama – the kind with mild peril and a happy ending. This, however, would ignore its very real and human story. Made into a movie starring James Stewart in 1950 it was the perfect tonic for the Americans after WWII, and a story that has endured for decades.
Make no mistake, this is a very accomplished production that flies past in a blaze of fun. Every single actor in the play is giving their all. Clearly comfortable, you can feel the enjoyment in the room. Ben Patterson’s directorial choices make for a very slick play. Considering the amount of actors, never does the stage feel claustrophobic, and the light, gentle tone is kept throughout the whole play.
Ben Rigby as Elwood particularly seems to be enjoying himself. His affable, distracted Elwood is the ideal man to spend a couple of hours with. The Insp. Closeau appearance topping off a charming portrayal that never sends up Elwood.
Sean Mason’s deliciously ditzy Veta makes for a hysterical watch, again Mason puts his extensive comedy talents to good use as Veta’s embarrassment at her errant brother becomes more and more apparent. Shauna Furse’s Myrtle Mae is caught in the middle of the two and aptly plays the stressed young bachelorette with aplomb.
Dan Thackerary’s eccentric Judge Gaffney goes from amiable to Veta and Myrtle to having the stage presence to stand up to Howard Whittock’s Dr. Chumley – no mean feat as these two minds collide. Whittock’s Chumley is not a man to be messed with thanks to Whittock’s commanding performance.
Leni Murphy’s extensive versatility yet again comes to the fore in three very different roles from social climber Ether Chauvenet through to world-weary taxi-driver EJ Lofgren in a pivotal climatic scene.
Meantime, over at the sanitarium, Alastair Smith is bound to raise some laughs as muscle man Wilson. Elwood hilariously runs rings around the confused Wilson resulting in some very funny moments. Daniel Blake’s Dr. Sanderson is wonderfully patronising to Tori Tunnah’s Ruth Kelly. Tunnah’s performance is endearing, and she shares some very tender scenes with Rigby’s Elwood.
But of course, who else would steal the show but Harvey himself, in the best performance from not only a non-speaking part, but a animal performer at that!
This is a rare chance to see this heartwarming story slickly produced. The more you watch, the more you will fall in love with Harvey and this bunch of eccentric, but well meaning characters. With some beautifully subtle comedy moments, Harvey is a true gem for the festive season and I defy anyone not to come out with a smile on their face.
Harvey returns to the Lass O’Gowrie on 11 and 12 of January as part of Lassfest – don’t miss it! More info on booking is available on the Lassfest website.