Habeas Corpus

Date 11th May 2017
Society High Tor Players
Venue Ashover Parish hall
Type of Production Play
Director Liz McKenzie


Author: Joyce Handbury

Alan Bennett’s play, written in the early 70‘s,  sets out to ‘disrobe’ the veneer surrounding a respectable family, exposing sexual frustrations, secrets, desires and misunderstandings. The storyline focuses on ‘lady loving’ Dr. Arthur Wicksteed, his sexually frustrated wife Muriel, their hypochondriacal son Dennis and his flat-chested spinster sister Constance. The action is somewhat disjointed but it was considerably assisted by the extremely simple set, comprising of just one flat placed centre stage, which the actors went around and behind thus enabling the play to flow, one scenario to another, without much disruption - an ingenious concept. Mark Gunton captured the comedic aspects and the emotional turmoils of Dr. Arthur Wicksteed brilliantly. He has great stage presence and his many soliloquies, which in themselves are quite a daunting task to undertake, were impeccably delivered. His long suffering wife, Muriel, was exquisitely played by Susan Devaney. Her desire to fulfil her thwarted needs came to fruition when she most provocatively attempted to seduce the bra salesman - it was priceless. Luke Revill was ideally suited to the role of Dennis Wicksteed, a severe hypochondriac. He grasped the characters fear and low self-esteem admirably, later coming out of his shell with great assurance. Yvonne Walker was hilarious as the downtrodden, dowdy and flat chested Constance Wicksteed managing to squeeze every ounce of comedy out of the role and her transformation at the end of the play was a sight to behold. Christopher Gale as Canon Throbbing was ‘Throbbing’ by name and definitely ‘throbbing’ by nature. He was an absolute hoot, playing the stereotypical canon when required but then giving vent to his lecherous wantonness. His facial expressions and lewd actions were quite disturbingly funny! Pauline Revill was splendid as Mrs Swabb, the cleaning lady who comments and keeps us well informed of the ‘goings on‘ in the household. Alicia Bloundele commanded the stage as Lady Rumpus, she both looked and acted the part with great aplomb and her daughter, Felicity, was glamorously and most seductively played by Tara Walker. Mark Poole was first-rate as Mr. Shanks, the ‘falsie-fitter’, his antics were hilarious and Bryce Glitheroe was ideally cast as Sir Percy Shorter, not just for his personal stature but also for his acting. He portrayed the authoritative and pompous demeanour of Sir Percy, perfectly. An excellent performance came from Simon Brister in the cameo role of Mr. Perdue, a suicidal patient of Dr. Wicksteed who is seemingly ignored by everyone. This impressive cast certainly made the most of the very clever and extremely witty script and congratulations must go to them, to Director Liz McKenzie and to everyone involved for giving us a truly entertaining, fun filled and thought provoking show.