- Lyric Theatre, Lowry Centre
- Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
- Until Sat 9 Sep 2006
- Tickets: 0870 787 5780
- or www.thelowry.com
This is a play which opened in 1973 and is broadly about sex, or rather the complex and prudish British attitudes towards it. With its jokes about the ‘permissive society’ it mocks the hand-wringing moral hypocrisy that was rife in Britain at that time.
I suppose in a way, it still is. But the ‘where’s your trousers?’ gag has worn a bit thin for most. Unless you’re an upper class twit. Or Boris Johnson.
I’m being unfair of course. Bennett’s intelligent script works on a number of levels and again demonstrates his talent for revealing the inner turmoil of ordinary people. There are plenty of witty lines which still stand the test of time. And the cast – led by James Fleet (Hugo from Vicar of Dibley) – is excellent.
|Playwright Alan Bennett|
Fleet plays Dr Wicksteed, a GP in his fifties trapped in a loveless marriage whose professional enthusiasm is only roused by the prospect of a dalliance with one of his younger female patients.
The seemingly respectable Wicksteed family are all undone by their various liaisons both past and present. And there’s a randy vicar called Canon Throbbing and a baffled cleaner in drag and lots of breast gags to add to the ‘uproariousness.’
Bennett’s message, ultimately, seems to be that everyone's at it so stop being so hypocritical. “He whose lust lasts, lasts longest,” as Wicksteed puts it.
But compared with his excellent observational writing in the 30 years since (eg. Talking Heads), Habeas Corpus, as a body of work, is looking a touch flabby and middle aged. Much like the good Dr Wicksteed.