Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett
Auditions – Thurs. 26th 7.30pm to 9.00pm and Sunday 29th 19.30am to 11.45am
Production dates: 12th to 15th September
Cast: 6m, 5f
The action takes place in and around the Wicksteeds’ house in Hove, on the south coast of England.
Mrs Swabb, who combines the functions of cleaner and all-knowing Fate, introduces the main characters. Wicksteed is 53, has an eye for the ladies and lacks ambition; his wife, Muriel, is a more assertive figure; their son, Dennis, is a wimpish hypochondriac, frustrated at his lack of a girlfriend; Connie is a flat-chested spinster who secretly longs to be sexually alluring; Sir Percy Shorter, President of the British Medical Association, was once Muriel’s sweetheart and he bears a grudge against Wicksteed for cutting him out; Lady Rumpers is a returning expatriate, concerned for the purity of her beautiful daughter Felicity; Canon Throbbing is anxious to abandon his celibate state, which he finds a strain to keep up.
Meeting Felicity for the first time, Wicksteed is instantly consumed with lust for her, and attempts to arrange a tête-à-tête. Muriel finds her old feelings for Shorter rekindled and she too plots a rendezvous. A parcel arrives for Connie: it contains a pair of false breasts. Felicity makes a pass at Dennis and they go off together. Mr Shanks, the fitter from the false-breast manufacturer, arrives and mistaking Muriel for his client rhapsodises about and handles her substantial bust, until realising his mistake. Muriel, aroused to a predatory frenzy, pursues Shanks until interrupted by the arrival of Shorter, who misreading the situation injects Shanks with a powerful tranquilliser. Connie has put on her padded breasts, which make her feel suddenly attractive and confident to the point of brazenness. She mistakes Shorter for the fitter, and invites him to handle her bust. He is aroused and is discovered trouserless by Canon Throbbing, whom he attempts to tranquilise, pursuing him offstage with a hypodermic. Dennis and Felicity declare their intention to marry, but he is sent away by Wicksteed, who then attempts to seduce Felicity. Shorter catches him in the act and threatens to have him disciplined and barred from medical practice. Muriel joins in the denunciation and the uproar is increased by a suicide attempt by Wicksteed’s patient Mr Purdue, who is trying to hang himself as Lady Rumpers enters.
Act Two continues the action from the same point. Lady Rumpers removes Felicity, Muriel tells Wicksteed to leave the family home, Throbbing and Shorter argue about which of them is to marry Connie until she enters without her prominent false bust, at which Shorter renounces her. Muriel relents and allows Wicksteed to remain, provided he resumes his long-neglected conjugal duties. Shanks comes round from the tranquiliser administered by Shorter and denounces Muriel as a sex-maniac. Wicksteed tells her that it is now she who must leave the family home. Lady Rumpers arrives to remove Felicity, who has returned to find Dennis. It emerges that Felicity has just had sex with Dennis. She finds him repulsive, and has agreed to marry him only because she is already pregnant, wants an official father for her child, and has been led to believe that Dennis has a fatal illness that will soon leave her as a widow. Lady Rumpers is aghast and reveals that history is repeating itself: she was seduced when young and made a marriage of convenience to give Felicity a legal father. Shorter makes a casual comment that leads to the discovery that he was the seducer and is Felicity’s father. Wicksteed, having the upper hand, forces Shorter to back down over his disciplinary threat. It emerges that Dennis’s imagined fatal illness is real, and Felicity agrees to go ahead with the marriage. Throbbing and Connie also pair off, and Wicksteed is left alone to reflect on the transience of human life and the importance of seizing sexual opportunities whenever possible: “He whose lust lasts, lasts longest”. The stage goes dark; a spotlight plays on Wicksteed, who “dances alone in the spotlight until he can dance no more.”[
For more information, please contact the Director, Val Greaves.