Thursday, October 9, 2014

Habeas Corpus - Review - People's Theatre

Habeas Corpus
People's Theatre
8th October 2014

Alan Bennett's play - set in the early seventies is a middle class family farce - and Kevin Gibson has directed a production that sets off at a run and barely stops! A beautifully simple set, in monochromes set against a brilliant orange backdrop, serves to ensure the focus is always on the characters. There are no scene changes, other than the addition or removal of a chair here and there, because the important thing here is the words and there is nothing to distract the attention from them.

The Wicksteeds are a  dysfunctional middle class family, about to discover that thing called the permissive society...
Stephen Noone is perfectly cast as Dr. Arthur Wicksteed, 53 (fifty-three!) bored with life - as a doctor he has already seen every possible illness and patient, and as a husband he is bored with his wife, (Sarah Mclane) disappointed in his son, and more or less indifferent to his spinster sister. Over the years he has relieved his boredom by seducing any beautiful woman who strays into his surgery. An activity which is about to catches up with him through the course of the play! Muriel Wicksteed fills her time with cake decorating and social groups, and dreams of the now successful doctor she spurned in favour of her husband. Their teenage son, Dennis,(Theo Hornsey)  a hypochondriac, dreams of girls, and imagines himself to be dying. Aunt Connie, (Alison Carr)spinster, tries to avoid the attentions of  Cannon Throbbing (Sean Burnside) and dreams of bigger boobs and Mr Right. Their lives are disrupted with the arrival a collection of strangers and a life changing parcel for Connie. Naturally, farcical misunderstandings abound - entrances and exits are made, identities are inevitably mistaken.

Cutting asides, withering looks, passionate kisses and unfortunate errors are played and portrayed with perfect comic timing, characters bounce off one another, and have the audience laughing out loud. Should any doubt about the significance, (or lack of it) for any character or incident in the minds of the audience it is lucidly and witheringly explained by Mrs Swab the cleaner, played with exuberance by the marvelous Anne Cater.

There are echoes of Kenny Everett and Captain Mainwaring in the performances of Sean Burnside and Keith Henderson, and Roger Liddle plays a perfect traveling appliance consultant, Mr Shanks, prepared and trained for every eventuality - until the day he comes across the Wicksteeds!

Brilliantly funny, the first act is a tour de force. Habeas Corpus runs till Saturday 11th Oct and is not to be missed!

Denise Sparrowhawk

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