Cheryl Barrett | 15 Sep 2016 02:36am
The Apollo Players, based at the Apollo Theatre in Newport launched their new season with Alan Bennett’s award winning play, Habeas Corpus. Billed as a saucy comedy and written in 1973, Habeas Corpus is essentially a play of sexual frustration and confusion. It had all the characteristics of an Alan Bennett play, musings on class structure and plenty of farce.
The action focusses on Arthur Wicksteed, a 53 year old apparently respectable GP with a thriving practice in Brighton. His sexually suppressed wife Muriel, hypochondriac son Dennis who thinks he only has three months to live and straight-laced spinster sister Constance complete his dysfunctional family. Arthur, bored with his marriage, takes more than a professional interest in young aristocrat Felicity Rumpers when she drops by for an examination. Pregnant Felicity ignores Arthur’s advances and dallies with his son, Dennis. Believing he has only three months to live she agrees to marry him and thus blame her pregnancy on him. Muriel, meanwhile, hopes to rekindle her romance with Sir Percy Shorter, head of the British Medical Association who has a score to settle with Muriel’s husband Arthur. And that’s only some of the goings on…
I wasn’t keen on the introduction of the characters at the beginning of the show in a game show format, however I am a great fan of farce, pantomime and double entendre and laughed my socks off. There were plenty of twists and turns in this comedy which I loved, and some which I saw coming a mile off and pre-empted by laughing – Oops. The acting was superb throughout and comedy lines delivered with pace and excellent comic timing. Director Amy Burns fine cast certainly delivered the laughs.
Michael Arnell gave an outstanding performance as Arthur Wicksteed and delivered his soliloquies
superbly, with the right balance of comedy and emotional depth. Fiona Gwinnett played Arthur’s neglected wife Muriel, and gave us some wonderful comedy moments with Mr Shanks, played by Paul Gwinnett. Graham Brown was suitably arrogant and pompous as the vertically challenged Sir Percy Shorter, and spent much of the time trouserless. Chris Turvey played Dr Wicksteed’s spinster sister who longed for bigger boobs and was engaged to Canon Throbbing. Mark Duffus turned in a good performance as lecherous clergyman Canon Throbbing.
There was a lovely comedy moment when the parcel with the false boobs was delivered and Constance and her nephew Dennis (Adam Richardson) and Mrs Swabb the cleaner (Di Evans) tried to hide the parcel from Muriel. Working class Mrs Swabb was also the narrator and Di Evans delivered some wonderful comedy lines with a deadpan expression. Adam Richardson was suitably depressed as hypochondriac Dennis
The running gag throughout the play were the telephone calls from Wicksteed’s patient Mr Purdue, who constantly phoned the Doctor because he was suicidal. Nick Turvey almost stole the show at the end of act one as he arrived at the Doctors surgery with a very large rope tied round his neck and stood on a chair and attached the rope to the light fitment, he was still there at the opening of Act Two. Helen Clinton-Pacey and Susan Simpson played the aristocratic Lady Rumpers who strived to maintain the class distinction, and her daughter Felicity Rumpers respectively, both turning in fine performances.
The set was kept simple with props to convey a Doctor’s surgery. Seagull and crashing wave sound effects were used to depict Brighton Pier, as was a giant beach cut out which Doctor Wicksteed used to put his head through during one of his soliloquies. The rest of the set comprised of three chairs, which were used effectively. Sound and lighting were first class. Costumes and wigs were perfect for the characters, and the audience particularly liked the way Sir Percy Shorter’s trousers left his body.
Amy Burns did an excellent job of directing, and the cast delivered impressive performances which the audience thoroughly enjoyed.
- : admin
- : 10/09/2016