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Review: Habeas Corpus at Newcastle People’s Theatre
Prescription For Love
Newcastle People’s Theatre
Until 11th October
Arthur Wicksteed is a 53 year old doctor in a loveless relationship in Hove and he sees many neurotic patients every day. He has categorised his diagnosis technique as being either trousers on or trousers off. Playwright Alan Bennett throws in a conference by the British Medical Association in nearby Brighton plus a dysfunctional family and we have the makings of a classic British farce. Whilst the script is very clever, with a mixture of funny situations coupled with the occasional rhyme, it takes a disciplined cast to create the magic on stage.
Stephen Noone and Sarah McLane displayed sharp comic timing as the doctor and his wife. They made a believable couple who had reached middle age with their only child, Dennis, who was a disappointment and still lives at home. Theo Hornsey plays the hypochondriac son well as he searches his next medical issue. His character benefits from the arrival of love interest Felicity Rumpers, played by the lovely Sarah Scott.
Arthur’s sister Constance wants a bigger chest and this results in the arrival of a suitable enhancement and a poor chap, Mr Shanks, who has come along to check it. Alison Carr and Roger Liddle perform their comedy of errors to great delight of the audience.
The president of the BMA pops by to wreak havoc on the Wicksteeds, and Keith Hendersons performance as the appropriately named Sir Percy Shorter had elements of late, great Leonard Rossiter in his routine.
Gluing the elements of the play is Mrs Swabb, the cleaner, who is often narrating, though Anne Cater never overloads the plot with too much exposition. Anne gets many of the laughs in her entertaining performance.
The stark monochrome set designed by Stuart Taylor coupled with clever lighting design by Dave Bailey enables the production to keep flowing. The action did not have to be paused for a scene change or for props to be brought on stage and this helped maintain the energy.
Kevin Gibson directs a wonderful farce based on 1970s values which still holds our current views on relationships to account.
This is a wonderful play by a talented ensemble that gave the audience many laughs.