Last week’s Crescent Theatre production of Harvey was a delight – but for me, it was also a memory-stirrer.
Although I have been pursuing amateur thespians for nearly a quarter of a century, having been asked in 1984 whether I would mind “looking after it this week”, this was the first time I had had the good fortune to find a group presenting the off-the-wall comedy that Mary Chase wrote in 1944.
I had nevertheless been smitten by it for nearly 60 years – since my unintentional membership of His Late Majesty George VI’s Royal Air Force had entitled me, as a National Serviceman, to a free ticket from London’s Nuffield Centre to see Joe E Brown as Elwood P Dowd in the West End production.
I had an excellent view, while I sat in the front stalls with not enough money to buy a programme. My 4s (20p) a day stipend as a very second-class aircraftman did not rise to such luxuries – but it did enable me to fall for the disarming story of the man whose best friend is a 6ft tall invisible rabbit.
Its charm has kept me hooked ever since, but it was not until Birmingham’s excellent canalside venue dug it out of the archives that I was able to remind myself of its winsome details.
This second encounter featured Robert Mrozek in the central role, supported by the kind of talented company that the Crescent habitually brings. By the end, I swear the audience had been so drawn into Dowd’s courteous but crackpot world that we were almost having to pinch ourselves to repel the conviction that we had been privy to the adventures of an outsize unseen rabbit.
It was a charming experience. I hope that other groups will be prompted to try to find a Harvey of their own.
n Members of Class Act Drama will move from Birmingham’s Custard Factory tonight for a one-off performance at Birmingham Hippodrome. The occasion is their production of When Santa Lost His Beard, in aid of Save the Children.
n Second Thoughts will hold auditions for The Beaux’ Stratagem on January 16 (7.30-9pm) and 18 (3-5pm) at St Peter’s Mission, Manor Road, Stratford. Contact Tony Boyd-Williams on 0178 929 0488 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Prospective patrons seeking tickets by telephone are always liable to offer an unintentional chuckle.
The classic from Staffordshire’s Newcastle Players concerns the person who knew what row and what position he was looking for but was uncertain about the seat number. He said he wanted a P against the wall.
* WHAT’S ON
Jack and the Beanstalk, Priory Theatre, Kenilworth (to Dec 28).
Animal Farm, Company Theatre School, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Saturday).
A Christmas Wassail, Crescent Theatre. Birmingham (Dec 21 & 22).
Hickory Dickory Dock, Highbury Theatre Centre, Sutton Coldfield (Dec 23-Jan 3).