The Play

Habeas Corpus is a comedy stage play by the English author Alan Bennett. It was first performed at the Lyric Theatre in London on 10 May 1973, with Alec Guiness and Margaret Courtenay in the lead roles.

It concerns the aging Dr. Arthur Wicksteed and his pursuit of a nubile patient, Felicity Rumpers. Wicksteed’s wife, Muriel, is, in turn, lusting after the charming head of the BMA, Sir Percy Shorter, who, as well as being Wicksteed’s old rival, turns out to be Felicity’s father – the result of an under-the-table liaison during an air-raid with Lady Rumpers, her mother.

Felicity herself is pregnant and finds a way to cover it up in the hypochondriac son of Dr. Wicksteed, Denis.

Meanwhile, Wicksteed’s spinster sister Connie, ashamed of her flat-chestedness, has schemes of her own. The ‘chorus’ is provided by the lower-class, housekeeper Mrs Swabb.

Habeas Corpus is also a legal term. It is Latin and translates as ‘you have the body’.

The play is staged with a minimal set, which allows the protagonists maximum space within which to move. We had no more than three chairs, and a platform at the back of the stage. We turned the Malanda Theatre around for this production, with the audienec sitting where the normal stage is.

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