Page 6, 18th April 1975

18th April 1975
Page 6
Page 6, 18th April 1975 — THEATRE by JONATHAN KEMP

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Stewart's faultless performance in 'Harvey'

For two reasons I hesitate to write about Harvey, by Mary Chase, at the Prince of Wales Theatre — in the first instance because I was the odd man out in not being able to join the rapturous reception accorded by the audience, and secondly because Ihad seen the original production more than 25 years ago, and I don't feel that old.

It is really not a good play; it will never be a classic. it is memorable only because on both occasions, two brilliant actors gave magnificent performances — Sid Field a quarterof-a-century ago and James Stewart today.

Sid Field was more fortunate than James Stewart, he did not have an American accent and so the director did not yield to the temptation of allowing some of his actors to imitate American accents.

I don't think it would have mattered if the intonations had been mixed, but it is disturbing to hear a phoney American, and rightly or wrongly, it seems to affect the actors' performaaces.

James Stewart's performance is faultless, but the supporting cast is poor — even that of Mona Washbourne. I recollect, I hope correctly, that the great comedienne Athene Seyler played the part at the same Prince of Wales Theatre with Sid Field.

At least her shadow kept creeping in, suggesting what might have been done with the part of Mrs Simmons, Elwood P. Dowd's sister. If James Stewart had performances to match his own, I don't know how the audience would have reacted; it could hardly have applauded more. Perhaps we might even have been persuaded that "Harvey" is a mqdern classic.

I cannot resist the temptation to go the the Theatre Workshop at Stratford. The sound of Bow Bells infects the whole atmosphere of the place; it is cocky — or should I say cockney? — in all its aspects.

But so often I come away disappointed. It is not because I have been offeuded by the crude humour or the lack of subtlety; I have come to expect it to be blunt, raucous and loud. The case of Bloody Mary. the current production, is no exception, but infuriatingly it is impossibie to say why it is disappointing. There is so much about it that is funny and original, and yet this latest musical offering just is not good enough.

Well, there is always another time and no doubt I will go again: maybe next time the missing ingredient will be there.

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