If you’re a fan of old-fashioned, feel-good comedy Lindsay Posner’s attractive revival of American playwright Mary Chase’s sentimental 1944 play will pass the time pleasantly enough. But the notion of a genial middle-aged bachelor who still has an imaginary best friend won’t appeal to all tastes – even if the BF in question is a 6’ 3½” white rabbit.
The original won Chase a Pulitzer Prize and its popularity was ensured when it was made into a film starring James Stewart in 1950. This time round, James Dreyfus takes the role of the delusional Elwood P Dowd whose embarrassingly eccentric behaviour has finally become too much for his increasingly flustered widowed sister Veta (Maureen Lipman) to cope with – especially as her daughter is beginning to lose all hope of finding a suitable husband as long as they’re all living under the same roof. And Elwood just happens to own the house.
Veta’s attempts to place him in a sanatorium (presided over by David Bamber’s Dr Chumley) don’t go according to plan, however, and she finds herself incarcerated instead. Dreyfus (who’s probably best known for camp, rather bitchy roles) is here the model of inoffensive affability – kind to all and rather too fond of propping up the bar. It’s a performance perfectly suited to this whimsical farce – and one which drives home the message that, in some cases at least, it’s better to be pleasant than smart even if, as a result, you and your invisible furry-eared sidekick aren’t always welcome in polite “society”.
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Until 2nd May £16.50 – £56.50 + premium seats