REVIEW: Harvey at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant

Harvey by HumDrum. From left: Rob Scott as Wilson, Ben Counter as Elwood P. Dowd and Tim Sturton-Davies as Dr Sanderson.
Harvey by HumDrum. From left: Rob Scott as Wilson, Ben Counter as Elwood P. Dowd and Tim Sturton-Davies as Dr Sanderson.

'I wrestled with reality most of my life, and I finally won.' So says Elwood P. Dowd in Mary Chase's 1944 Broadway comedy, Harvey. 

His prize is the constant companionship of a six foot rabbit who gives his name to the play - and almost gets him institutionalised by his socially embarrassed family.

There is a whiff What the Butler Saw, in the farce that ensues but this is the warm-hearted American cousin of Joe Orton's play. Even Dr Chumley, the psychiatrist who wants to lock Elwood up, comes to recognise that 'our dreams are what separate us from the animals.'

Caz Gilmore's HumDrum production comes at this amiable piece of screwball from just the right angle. The dialogue is sharply delivered, the characters clearly differentiated, each with their own integrity – or lack of it.

The casting is uniformly strong with standout performances from Ben Counter as Elwood, catching perfectly his eccentric benevolence, Leila Millson as the hard-bitten nurse with a soft heart and Rob Scott as the sinister orderly. Best of all is Sheila Elsdon as Veta, the snob you can't help liking. Her quickfire delivery and physical dexterity come closest to the spirit of the piece.

The only trick HumDrum miss is not offering a discount if you take an invisible rabbit with you.

Until Saturday.

DAVID PENROSE