“Harvey” at the TNP of Villeurbanne, with Jacques Gamblin in sweet crazy

Bursts of laughter with a shovel. An enthusiastic and demonstrative room. This is what Laurent Pelly’s troupe lacked, which had been rehearsing for months: to confront the public and feel it vibrate. Harvey, the fantastic and incredible story of Elwood P. Dowd and his imaginary friend presented at the National Popular Theater of Villeurbanne succeeds in its introduction. About ten performances from October 1 to 10, 2021, almost all complete, word of mouth will do the rest.

In the guise of Jacques Gamblin, Elwood P. Dowd is a lovable and cheerful 50-something who walks everywhere with his friend Harvey, a giant bunny almost two meters tall that no one but himself sees. A very cumbersome companion in the eyes of those around him. Tired of seeing him disturb his social gatherings, his sister decides to intern him in a psychiatric hospital, but it is she who ultimately finds herself locked up.

Harvey is a hilarious and melancholy farce, a creaking vaudeville which comes to disrupt the well-oiled mechanics of a small bourgeois society. A piece that sails between madness and wickedness, between cruelty and benevolence. “It is an American boulevard much deeper and much more serious than one might think”, enthuses the director Laurent Pelly, whose obsession is‘”to be in the right place, between the farce and the serious.” A comedy endlessly on the line, which questions our relationship to others. And to madness.

Jacques Gamblin plays an endearing, kind and eccentric Elwood, always fair. To stay on this fragile line between too much and too little, the actor confides that he has worked and rehearsed a lot. The role “looks like a clown by the candor and naivety of the character, but it is necessary to translate a counterpoint of loneliness which threatens him deeply and led him to create this friendship”, he testifies in the magazine The theater proscenium.

Jacques was absolutely obvious. I didn’t see anyone else to play Elwood “, reveals Laurent Pelly, whose first collaboration with the actor is. “He is at the same time charming and mischievous. He has in him this share of mystery, childhood and poetry.”

Written in 1944 by American journalist and playwright Mary Chase and directed the following year by Antoinette Perry, Harvey was an immediate success and earned its author the Pulitzer Prize. On Broadway, the play is played for five years without interruption, that is to say 1775 performances. In 1950, James Stewart immortalized Elwood in the cinema. It is this adaptation that Laurent Pelly discovered six years ago and which made him want to stage it. The story known to all Anglo-Saxons had strangely never crossed the Atlantic to be played on a French stage. Agathe Mélinand, longtime accomplice of the director, takes care of the translation.

In 1950, the cinema seized on the tale of Mary Chase and offered James Stewart the role of Elwood and an Oscar nomination. Josephine Hull who plays Elwood's sister wins the Oscar for best supporting role. (Copyright 1950 by Universal Pictures Co. Inc. Country of origin: USA)

The play is also a beautiful story of complicity and friendship between the faithful companions of Laurent Pelly such as Pierre Aussedat, Emmanuel Daumas and Christine Brücher who performs (alternating with Charlotte Clamens) Vita Simmons, Elwood’s sister. A troop spirit dear to the director who signs a comedy regulated to the millimeter, served by sets signed Chantal Thomas who navigate like the characters between a narrow bourgeois interior and an insane asylum.

We come out joyful and invigorated from such an encounter with this Elwood who has chosen to be charming rather than intelligent. We are surprised to think that in our turn, we would invite him to our table this Harvey. Just to taste the poetry and the marvelous.

“Harvey” by Marie Chase, directed by Laurent Pelly – Tour 2021-2022

– TNP, Villeurbanne, from October 1 to 10, 2021, from Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. except Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 p.m., break on Monday

– The Odyssey, Périgueux, January 7, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.
– MAC, Créteil, January 12 and 13, 2022 at 8 p.m.
– Théâtre Montansier, Versailles, from January 18 to 22, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.
– Théâtre de St Germain en Laye, January 28, 2022 at 8:45 p.m.
– Théâtre de Gascogne, Mont-de-Marsan, February 2, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.
– L’Olympia, Arcachon, February 4, 2022 at 8:45 p.m.
– L’Avant-Seine, Colombes, March 8, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.
– Jean Vilar Theater, Suresnes, March 10 and 11, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.
– ADO, Orléans, from March 17 to April 1, 2022
(March 17 and 23 at 7 p.m.; March 10, 11, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 at 8:30 p.m., March 20 and 27 at 3 p.m.)

We would like to say thanks to the author of this article for this outstanding content

“Harvey” at the TNP of Villeurbanne, with Jacques Gamblin in sweet crazy

Hank Gilbert