“Harvey”, the not so imaginary rabbit by Jacques Gamblin

At the Théâtre de Carouge until June 19, the French actor Jacques Gamblin plays in the play “Harvey” by the American Mary Chase, directed by Laurent Pelly. Joyful theatrical entertainment.

First, get yourself a hat. A man’s hat, wide and deep enough to hold everything that follows. Then, place at the bottom of the hat the following elements, drawn from theatre, cinema or literature: the quaint humor of “Arsenic and old lace”, the metaphysical daydreams of “Alice in Wonderland” and a few scenes from “Flight over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Wave your arms above the hat. Stick a hand in it and you’ll get Harvey out of it.

An invisible rabbit

Harvey? A large white rabbit, about two meters tall, a not-so-imaginary friend of the friendly, nonchalant drunkard Elwood P. Dowd, played by the French actor Jacques Gamblin on the stage of the Théâtre de Carouge.

Harvey is invisible to all humans except Elwood. He still takes up quite a place in his family home where Vita (Elwood’s sister) and Clémentine (his niece) must always reserve a plate at the table for the giant leporid. Harvey is actually a pooka, a mythological animal from Irish legends. Hence probably the link between his presence with Elwood and the consumption of potentially Irish whiskey by the latter.

When Vita thinks of having Elwood committed for hallucination and psychotic disorders, nothing goes right. It would seem that Harvey the pooka does indeed watch over his comrade, who has chosen to prefer “charm to intelligence”. Then begins a back and forth between family home, psychiatric clinic and trip to the bars of the city.

A Molière for Jacques Gamblin

“Harvey”, the play, dates from the late 1940s. We owe it to the American journalist and playwright Mary Cole Chase, a fine pen from Colorado who at the time obtained a Pulitzer for her play, then the recognition of Hollywood, James Stewart and Josephine Hull embodying Elwood and Vita on screen in 1950. The actress received an Oscar for best actress for her role as Vita, after having triumphed six years earlier in “Arsenic and old lace” with , there too, his partner James Stewart.

Acting in “Harvey” brings good luck. Today, Jacques Gamblin is being rewarded with a Molière, prize for professionals in the profession, for his good-natured and zigzagging incarnation of the nice pillar of a bar flanked by his size XXL rabbit.

Theater from another century

“Harvey” is pure entertainment. His pikes against psychiatry are now kindly smiling while his female characters smell like the mothballs of the programs of “Au theater de soir”. In “Harvey”, a story set in the good society of Denver, if you wear a dress, you have this choice of roles: ingenue in search of a husband, woodcock, frustrated auntie or brave housewife who awaits the return of her husband. . The Castafiore is not far away…

A scene from the play “Harvey” by Mary Chase, performed at the Théâtre de Carouge in a staging by Laurent Pelly. [Polo Garat – DR]

“Harvey” is theater from another century, barely retouched for the public of 2022, by the director Laurent Pelly, accustomed to the world of operetta and theater classics (from Hugo to Offenbach in passing by Goldoni and Rossini) who chose a vaudeville-like option à la Feydeau with very dynamic changes of scenery, slamming doors and regularly ringing doorbells.

Everything is served with conviction and energy by a dozen actresses and actors. Failing to upset your vision of the world or the theater, this giant rabbit will not bother you. He’s too caring for that.

Thierry Sartoretti/aq

“Harvey” by Mary Chase, directed by Laurent Pelly, at the Théâtre de Carouge, until June 19, 2022.

We wish to say thanks to the writer of this post for this amazing material

“Harvey”, the not so imaginary rabbit by Jacques Gamblin