BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014
ManchesterManchester

BBC Homepage
England
»BBC Local
Manchester
News
Sport
Weather
Travel News

Things to do
People & Places
Nature
History
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Manchester

Bradford
Derby
Lancashire
Liverpool
Stoke

Related BBC Sites

England
 

Contact Us

Theatre, Dance and Comedy

Annette Badland and James Fleet in Habeas Corpus
Flabby: Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus

By Richard Turner
Alan Bennett may be a fine writer whose farce surely surpasses most other examples of the genre. But it’s still a farce. And that’s where Habeas Corpus falls down. It’s clever. But it’s dated.

Habeas Corpus

  • 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.

Alan Bennett
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.

last updated: 06/09/06
SEE ALSO
home
HOME
email
EMAIL
print
PRINT
Go to the top of the page
TOP
SITE CONTENTS
SEE ALSO

BBC News
Latest from BBC News:

Listings elsewhere





About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy