After a week in which The Mission Theatre became the victim of a burglary, when, Thursday 12th January, somebody made away with our office safe, it was a great tonic to experience the fabulous opening night of resident Theatre Company Next Stage's Habeas Corpus. Well done to all the cast on an excellent review from Philip Horton (Bath Chronicle). Tickets have gone for all the week night performances, but there may still be a few left for Saturday's 2pm and 7.30pm shows - ring the Bath Box Office on 01225 463362 to grab them!
"National treasure that he is, Alan Bennett invariably slips something risque into his material.
With Habeas Corpus, he rarely slips anything in that isn’t risque.
It’s a McGill postcard come to life and, obviously to Bennett’s amusement, set in Hove, the posh end of Brighton.
Based in the house of Dr Arthur Wicksteed and his unsatisfied wife Muriel, where “Arthur falls asleep as soon as his teeth hit the glass,” Muriel complains.
Their cleaning lady, Mrs Swabb (Caroline Groom, super as the working class commentator), acts as prologue.
The doctor pursues a nubile patient, his wife lusts after Sir Percy Shorter while the doctor's flat chested (“Bust like a billiard table” says Muriel) sister Connie yearns for a larger bosom and a man. Mrs Swabb orders false boobs for Connie - an innovation in the early seventies when the play was written, though almost mandatory now - which arrive closely followed by the man to fit them.
Throw in Canon Throbbing, engaged to Connie for 10 unrequited years, Lady Rumpers, mother of well endowed Felicity (chased by Arthur and his hypochondriac son Dennis), a patient intent on suicide, plus various mistaken identities and you have all the ingredients of a classic farce.
While farces have gone somewhat out of fashion, this is written by Bennett and hence is a cut considerably above average. For instance, Lady Rumpers admits that daughter Felicity was conceived under a table during the blackout in Liverpool but claims not to know the father as she only, “Saw his face under the fitful light of a post coital Craven A.”
With a minimal set, just a pair of chairs, a bench and a stool, and some very clever directing, this is great entertainment played with highly professional relish by the whole cast.
Almost sold out before the first night, it is well worth trying to squeeze in for an evening of genuine, erudite, laughter."
Philip Horton Bath Chronicle