Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

End of the pier show

Habeas Corpus

Hall Green Little Theatre


TAKE a lecherous doctor, his sex starved wife, a hypochondriac son who collects diseases as others collect stamps and the doc’s flat chested sister who is looking for salvation in a D-cup and perhaps a family merely being dysfunctional would be an improvement.

Throw in, a pompous BMA president, spurned in his youth by the doctor’s wife and out for revenge, an ex-pat newly returned harridan who thinks the British Raj is alive and well or, at least thinks it should be, who arrives with her rather shapely and, secretly, pregnant daughter.

Then add to the mix a vicar, would be suitor of the doc’s sister, with a hobby of staring up young ladies’ skirts and who has an insatiable appetite for knowledge, second hand, about sex and finally we have a sort of travelling breast fitting technician. . . don’t ask . . .  and vanishing trousers.

And that is without the patient who wanders in and out trying to top himself in Alan Bennett’s farce from 1973.

Set in Hove, the gentle, posh bit of Brighton, in the 1960s, it is perhaps just as well we have Christine Bland as Mrs Swabb, a sort of Greek chorus, at least Ajax is in there somewhere, with a Hoover and rubber gloves, who narrates as well as being the woman what comes in and does for the randy doc and his family. Bland gives a wonderful performance with some impeccable timing and telling smiles and glances.

The doc, Arthur Wicksteed, is suave, sophisticated and, bored with his wife and marriage, open to the merest hint of an opportunity of a sexual nature – unless, of course, it concerns his wife. Arthur, the would be 53-year-old stud, or in his chabeas posterase stood-up, is neither doting husband or father, he is not sure of his son’s name for example, not that it matters as he doesn’t like him. He is played with a nicely judged reckless manner and splendid indifference to all round him by Steve Fisher.

Wife Muriel is played in a full of life – short on sex – manner by Ros Davies, on the permanent look-out for male . . . company, while Ryan Knight is suitably wimpish as the permanently ill Dennis, or is it Trevor, or Keith . . . it’s something like that. The lad is only happy when he finds some fatal disease to suffer from.

We have seen Rachel Louise Pickard grow as an actress at Hall Green and she takes on the miserable, unfulfilled role of the sister, Constance Wicksteed with some style. Constance is a spinster (“No, I’m not, I am just not married”) who dreams of bigger breasts and is sure if she could find a few more feminine inches Mr Right would appear and sweep her, and her enhanced attributes, off her feet.

Mr Wrong meanwhile is Canon Throbbing, played with some lovely touches by Al McCaughey. The Cannon seems to be throbbing by name and nature whenever a female appears and is determined to marry Constance, the love of his life, and, let’s be honest, probably his only chance of nookie – and even then it’s a slim chance at best as his hormones continue to race without any imminent prospect of relief.

Enter Sir Percy Shorter, every inch the pompous president of a professional body, in this case the British Medical Association, though, to be fair, there are not many inches to actually be pompous with in his case, a vertically challenged position which does not sit easily with Sir Percy played with a deft touch by Daniel Robert Beaton.

Recently returned to Britain Lady Rumpers, played suitably haughtily by Linda Neale, is a little put out at the state of the old country and wants to protect her daughter Felicity, played with demure scheming by Hannah Scothern, a daughter who is trying to avoid being an unmarried single mum and marriage to a guaranteed soon to die doctor’s son seems an eminent solution.


When Mrs Swabb and Constance send off to Leatherhead for a fiver’s worth of mail order bosoms including in the price is a visit from the company’s fitter, a sort of bosom buddy, Mr Denzil Shanks, played with a look of permanent bewilderment, in fear of another sexual advance from Muriel and with no no trousers by Mike Parker.

While to brighten up proceedings we have Mr Purdue, manic depressive and persistent attempter of suicides from hanging, to pills to sticking his head in the oven, an attempt which thankfully or sadly, depending upon your point of view, was less than 100 per cent effective as it was electric.

Amid the mayhem we have Sir Percy attempting to get Arthur struck off for his present sins, or to be more accurate, attempted sins with a patient while Arthur can lay the same charges, in this case consummated, at the door of Sir Percy for past sins under a table in his consulting room during an air raid in Liverpool during the war.

Meanwhile Arthur and Muriel find themselves with mutual adulterous holds over each other, Dennis is dying, again, but marrying Felicity to become, although he doesn’t know it, a hopefully dead dad, and Constance, sporting her new frontage finds a new life and a new man. So everyone will live chaotically ever after.

Director Jean Wilde has done a fine job in keeping up a good pace in a play which depends almost entirely upon timing. There is no set to speak off, just drapes to give easy access on and off at the rear and wings and three chairs which means the words and acting alone have to carry the whole performance and carry it they did.

The play has some genuinely funny lines which are well delivered by a fine cast in what is a witty, thoughtful, laugh a minute romp. To 12-09-15.

Roger Clarke


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