Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus is set in the late sixties and follows the lives of the Wicksteed family. The story follows Dr and Muriel Wicksteed as they both seek pleasure and fun outside of their marital relationship. The farcical play is very fast paced, incredibly funny and occasionally surreal. The bumbling sex-obsessed British characters such as the virginal vicar, the ﬂat chested spinster, the peering doctor, his frustrated wife and of course a bra salesman man all come together in this bizarre and thoroughly entertaining story.
The plot is frequently driven forward through the use of monologues giving the audience an insight into each person’s amusing and absurd thoughts. The set that had been used was clearly well designed and constructed to a high standard. Really bringing the sixties home to life, with the smaller side sets such as the surgery and seaside not distracting from the main setting. Music and projection was cleverly used throughout to emphasise the ridiculousness of the characters inner thoughts. In this speciﬁc production act one did appear to be the more polished section with better blocking and more precise line delivery.
After the interval the production did seem to lose its energy, and with several line prompts required it did come across as under rehearsed. Another unfortunate aspect of this production was the technical elements. The background music during certain monologues was not lowered enough to allow the audience to hear the dialogue. The lights on the stage were brought up clearly before the actors were ready to re-enter and the back wall projector had not been aligned correctly. Meaning that certain aspects of the computer screen could be seen such as “A Java update is required”. This obviously distracted from the actors and did ultimately lower the quality of the production. It should be noted that this was the opening night of the production, and this being the case can be excused with the production team ensuring all will be rectified for the rest of the weeks performances.
However CADOS armed with strong comedy actors and a wonderful script meant these issues were not devastating. Overall the play is worth watching and the entire cast brought their eccentric characters to life with ease. The stand out performance from the show came from Sue Hilton who played Mrs Swabb. She superbly played her with wonderful quirky habits and delivered her lines with perfect comic timing. Followed closely by Diane Glover who played the joyful Mrs Wicksteed and had the audience crying with laughter during her Polaroid modelling scene.
The classic case of mistaken identity and wonderfully timed coincidental events is just what you would expect from your standard farce. The play is a joy to watch and when the technical issues are ﬁxed it is highly recommended to all.
Reviewer: Ellie Close
Reviewed: 25th April 2016