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Box Theatre Company - Habeas Corpus

6th to 9th November 2013.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News..

Carry on Boxing…

Newbury's own Box Theatre celebrate 20 years with 1970s farce

Box Theatre; Habeas Corpus, at Arlington Arts, from Wednesday, November 6 to Saturday, November 9

The Box Theatre Company celebrate their 20th year - quite an achievement - with Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus at Arlington Arts.

First performed in 1973, the play is certainly a little dated for a modern audience, with its political incorrectness and themes of the promised 'permissive society', sexual fixations and dysfunctional families.

Bennett's farce has moments of wit with some poetic prose interposed with a plethora of puns and double entendres, lots of trouser dropping and misunderstandings in this fun-filled play that had the audience chortling.

It is set in Dr Arthur Wicksteed's surgery in Brighton and Hove. Wilson Manson is splendid as the ageing sex-crazed doctor who has become disillusioned with his profession. He has more than an eye for his young female patients, particularly the pretty Felicity Rumpers (Janey Stride)

His long-suffering wife - enthusiastically played by the voluptuous Adelina Miller - throws herself into the part of the sexually-frustrated Muriel.

Arthur's dowdy spinster sister Connie (Beth West) is desperate to get married but does not relish the prospect of marrying the debauched randy vicar who has the appropriate name of Canon Throbbing ardently played by Neal Murray

Connie craves for a bigger bust in the hope of attracting a more desirable man and enlists the help of a breast enlargement bra company. Her transformation into a blossoming woman once wearing the device was impressive. However, when the representative Mr Shanks (Keith Keer) arrives to make adjustments there is a hilarious case of mistaken identity.

John Harding plays the hypochondriac son Dennis who believes he is going to die soon and keeps inventing new illnesses, and Lady Rumpers, superbly portrayed by Sanna Heslop-Hall, who has newly arrived from the colonies, adds a new twist to the plot.

When Sir Percy Shorte (Simon Fenton) President of the General Medical Council and suffering from height issues finds Dr Wickstead in a compromising situation with Felicity dressed only in her underwear the situation becomes even more complicated.

Matters are made worse by the entrance of the suicidal Mr Purdue - a lovely cameo performance by Paul Isherwood.

Jamie Leigh Taylor Smith is Mrs Swab, the flirty housekeeper who also acts as the narrator, and makes quite profound comments on the state of affairs.

Director Duncan Mack keeps the pace flowing in this nostalgic look back at life in the '60s, in what was an entertaining and enjoyable evening's production.