Interviewed by Helen McWilliams
We were bowled over by the production of ‘Harvey’ which has just moved from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to Malvern Theatres. Helen was even more thrilled to have the opportunity of interviewing one of the stars of the play, Felicity Dean. Here’s what she had to say:
So, Felicity – tell me about ‘Harvey’ and your character ‘Betty Chumley’.
Yes, Hello Helen – ‘Harvey’ is a prize-winning play written by an American playwright called Mary Chase, who wrote it originally to cheer up a friend. It’s a charming and comedic play about a very nice, congenial man whose best friend is an invisible rabbit. Everybody thinks he’s quite mad, but it turns out that really in the end, he’s the sanest of the lot. It’s a charming slow burner of a play of a genre which is old fashioned. However, it has its place for audiences today because it’s a really good night out.
I play Betty Chumley, she is ditzy which is how I play her, she’s slightly intimidated by her husband, he’s a Psychiatrist. When she meets Mr Dowd I like to think she’s transformed and finds her voice because she’s met someone who treats her nicely. It runs no deeper than that and I think the audience react to her with warmth.
I think that’s very true given the audience reactions we heard during the interval. I think people hoped (as we did) that the character would make another appearance. From our point of view, although yourself, Amanda Boxer and Linal Haft are only in the play for a limited time, you each make a big impact.
Well, that’s nice to hear, all of the parts are iconic and you feel you’re part of an ensemble. I’m very lucky with the actors I’m working with.
Have you worked with any of them before?
I’ve only worked with Amanda Boxer (who plays Mrs Chauvenet) before in ‘Trial and Retribution’ on television. I haven’t worked with any of the others before, but we’ve all got mutual friends in common.
You mentioned ‘Trial and Retribution’, you’ve done a few detective-style dramas on television, have you a favourite?
I have to say ‘Midsomer Murders’, I think they still do it don’t they? Such a lovely company to work with, they look after you so well and I was fortunate enough to do it twice when John Nettles was still in it.
I love ‘Midsomer Murders’!
Yes, it’s the sort of thing you can sit down and watch with a cup of tea and a digestive!
Definitely! With regards to ‘Harvey’, were you familiar with the 1950s film?
Yes, I watched it…
Did you find it useful in relation to your part?
I did find it useful for research, although I think if I had been playing Veta I probably wouldn’t have watched it until near the end. I think there’s a balance as to how useful it is, it could permeate and cause you to imitate the person you’re watching.
So, are there any roles that you would really like to play?
I’m really drawn to Tennessee Williams, for example I’d like to play Amanda in ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Tragic but comedic characters interest me, I like characters that have a depth, Chekhov is another playwright who has written characters with the sort of depth that interests me.
Which medium do you prefer between film, television and theatre?
I love theatre, I always have, there’s something about as the lure, even as they say ‘the smell of the grease paint’. I’ve always seen it as one of my life skills, you really have to learn it, and there’s always more to learn. Having said that I’ve just been filming an episode of ‘Casualty’ in Cardiff and I really enjoyed that, they’re so accurate with their detail, all the machines that I was ‘hooked’ up to worked! I was even offered an MOT while I was there!
What advice have you got for anybody that wants to go into acting?
I find it quite alarming, because everybody seems to want to do it, but I would say to people don’t do it unless you burn to do it. If there’s nothing else that you are passionately committed to, There’s a phrase spoken by the great dramatist and acting teacher Stanislavsk “Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art” I think that is a brilliant piece of advice, and I’d like to pass onto anyone starting out. You don’t want to discourage people, though and at my son’s school’s careers night I had the longest queue! I said to most of those people to get a degree, get an education and then work it in parallel with something else.
Finally, for anybody that’s to toying with the idea of coming to see ‘Harvey’, what would you say to encourage them to come along?
Come and have a really heart-warming, funny and enjoyable evening, it covers all age groups, so you could bring your mum, your gran – bring the whole family!
We’d like to thank Felicity for giving up her time to be interviewed, Helen had a lovely time meeting her and we highly recommend that you go and see ‘Harvey’.
A link to our review is here: https://breakalegreviewblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/harvey-birmingham-repertory-theatre/
You can book tickets to see ‘Harvey’ at Malvern Theatres up until Saturday 28th February 2015, tickets are available from the box office on 01684 892277 or via http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk.