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

habeas head

Habeas Corpus

Highbury Theatre Centre


SO we have Dr Arthur Wicksteed whose bedside manner is more akin to lechery, his sex starved wife Muriel, a hypochondriac son whose name he cannot remember and Constance, his flat-chested sister, whose dream is a set of humongous hooters.

Then there is the ex-colonial Lady Rumpers, played Lady Bracknell-like by Dee White, taking snobbery and prudery to new levels to protect the purity of her daughter Felicity, played with a mix of predator and panic by Bhupinder Brown. All of which is a bit late, sadly, as Felicity is hardly as pure as the driven snow.

Indeed she has her own little snowball as a souvenir of a recent dalliance and is desperate for a husband to add a gloss of respectability . . . and avoid the wrath of her mother . . . for when the snowball turns into a little snowman, or woman, in nine months’ time.

Dennis, or Ralph, or Ken, or whatever the son is called would be an ideal candidate as he has a fatal disease he found in some medical book so is going to croak in three months. Long enough to marry, consummate, celebrate then, thankfully, cremate before the marriage starts to become a nuisance.

Then there is the would-be spouse for Constance, Cannon Throbbing, played with an air of constant sexual anticipation by Dave Douglas, celibate not so much by calling as lack of opportunity. He has been engaged for 10 years and sexually frustrated even longer, eager for a wedding day and all it means. (At this point he will probably want more graphic details of what all it means means).

Constance meanwhile is more concerned with filling D-cups with an added touch of sensual strain on the old blouse buttons, as she strives for a more substantial frontage, so to speak, in a lovely performance by Linzi Doyle

Hovering around them we have Sir Percy Shorter, played by Rob Phillips, shorter by name and . . . well he’s a bit touchy about that; he is President of the BMA, a former flame of Muriel and always willing to give any young lady an impromptu full examination free of charge.

And then there is Mr Shanks, played by Kerry Frater, who has a job no one seemed to mention in those careers fairs at school, a fitter for a breast enhancement company, a job you really have to have a feel for. Perhaps if people knew the job existed the queue of applicants would get too long.

If that is not enough there is Mr Perdue, played by Rob Gregory, a manic depressive patient who spends his life trying to end it all without any real signs of success.habeas poster

And holding it all together as a sort of cross between a Greek chorus and Hilda Ogden we have Mrs Swabb, in a glorious performance from Sandra Haynes; she is the lady who does for the Wicksteeds and fills us in with the various machinations and goings on.

Alan Bennett’s 1973 farce is a deliciously funny comedy, full of innuendo, a few hints of darkness, underlying sexuality (just to keep Cannon Throbbing . . . well throbbing really) asides to the audience and laugh out loud moments.

Martin Walker is convincing as the good, or should it be bad, doctor, while Sharon Clayton has a frustration you can feel as Muriel – Mr Shanks actually does feel it, but that is another story.


Shanks, the Welsh, falsie fitter, should really have carried out a risk assessment at the Wicksteed madhouse before attempting to fit any falsies, it would probably have save losing his trousers.

Not that Sir Percy Shorter needed any encouragement to divest himself of his grey flannels when a slightly top heavy Constance hove into view.

Phillips gives an arrogant air to his diminutive character, with some lovely facial expressions for bewilderment, smugness, fear and hate when it comes to his rival in love from all those years ago, Arthur Wicksteed.

Jack Hobbis, last seen as Jack Lane in the excellent Herbal Bed, gives us a rather dim son in Dennis, who has a vague interest in girls when he is not collecting new diseases he can suffer from in the deeper recesses of medical textbooks.

The plot is simple, the good doctor has the hots for Felicity as does, more successfully so it transpires, Denis, or Kevin or whoever his son is called, after Felicity threw herself upon him drawn by his fatal attraction, namely his fatal disease and three month sell by date.

Muriel meanwhile, well-endowed in the chest department, is mistaken by Mr Shanks for Constance and he starts adjusting her fit, if you see what I mean, she gets aroused and he loses his trousers

Meanwhile Connie has strapped on a pair of blouse busters and mistaking Sir Percy for Shanks asks him what he thinks and does he want to adjust them, which is like asking a donkey if it likes strawberries. He gets aroused and loses his trousers.

Then we have threats to strike both doctors off, a one-night stand, or rather bonk beneath a table during the blitz in Liverpool, Muriel blackmailing Arthur into performing his long neglected conjugal duties and then being backmailed in return.

Two weddings . . . and an impending funeral for Dennis, Kevin, or Leonard or whatever and they all live dysfunctionally ever after . . . apart from Dennis who is more hereafter than ever after.

The humour is at times clever, at times suggestive, but this is at the Donald McGill seaside postcard end of risqué, saucy rather than smut, all on Malcolm Robertshaw’s set consisting of two white chairs on a red floor, with giant McGill style postcards on the wall, a set which represent everything from consulting rooms to the pier.

Director Ian Appleby has kept it simple, let the jokes do the talking, helped by a cast who know how to deliver them for an entertaining evening by the seaside. To 24-09-16

Roger Clarke


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