Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus, set in the late 1960s, has all the ingredients of a classic but surreal farce, spiced with the warmth and humanity of Bennett’s razor-sharp wit.
Dr and Mrs Wicksteed, his sister Connie, their hypochondriac son Dennis, and Connie’s long-term fiancé Canon Throbbing, live in Hove - a seaside town as yet untouched by the Permissive Society. But beneath the surface hidden desires are bubbling, and the arrival of Lady Rumpers from the colonies, her gorgeous daughter Felicity, and, coincidentally, Sir Percy Shorter, the president of the British Medical Association, prove a combustible mixture. However, it’s Mr Shanks, a ‘falsies’ fitter from Leatherhead and keen to provide a professional service to his customers, who triggers the explosion, and a positive tsunami of mistaken identities and surging passions ensues.
Habeas Corpus, like some saucy McGill seaside postcard retouched by Magritte, or an end-of-the-pier romp reorganised by Orton, explodes with fun as trousers are dropped, the wrong knockers are admiringly fondled and suppressed libidos burst out of enforced hibernation. In the midst of it all, Mrs Swabb, charlady-cum-philosopher and latter-day Greek chorus (a part originally played by Bennett himself) provides an ironic, all-knowing commentary.
This delightful Next Stage, New Year romp is already proving to be extremely popular so don’t delay - get your tickets before they sell out.