Review: Habeas Corpus, University Drama Studio

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SUDS’ latest offering is a farcical sex comedy. Initially it’s a painful farrago of Benny Hill and Carry On films. This slow burner gradually warms up however into an intelligent pastiche comprising bawdy 1970s postcard humour, Shakespearean philosophy, pantomime and Gilbert and Sullivan ditties.

Ian Brownlee’s Arthur Wicksteed provides much of the wise musing, remarking that a man who lies with the fairer sex has nothing to be ashamed of since everyone on the planet, without exception, exists as the result of such a liaison. Dr Wicksteed still has time to behave inappropriately, however, with Elena Jouravleva’s nubile patient, Felicity Rumpers.

In the style of the bard, a bit player, Jill Wright plays Mrs Swabb, a housekeeper, who acts as a game show host, introducing the characters from information on a clipboard. She is the personification of fate and is privy to the secrets and shenanigans of the players.

David Walker draws good performances from all the cast. Lynda Liddament as Dr Wicksteed’s wife, Muriel, relishes dispensing of bra expert Mr Shanks’s trousers, a fine cameo from Stephen Thomas-Lee. Jonathan Jones’ diminutive Sir Percy Shorter also mislays his clothes with the help of Kate Buck’s buxom Connie.

The dialogue, which takes place on a bare stage, is witty. Julia Morrison as Lady Rumpers sums up the day’s permissive society as, “Sex, sex, sex. I’m not having it.” Mrs Swabb wryly replies, “I’m not surprised”. Dr Wicksteed has the last word by offering a universal puntastic panacea, “He whose lust lasts, lasts longest.”