COMEDY DRAMA: Habeas Corpus at Arundel

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SAUCY seaside postcard is the flavour as mammaries and mortality loom large in Habeas Corpus, Alan Bennett’s 1973 farce – the latest production from the Arundel Players.

Barry Jarvis, who runs the stage management course at Chichester College, directs the show which runs from March 21-26 at the Priory Playhouse, Arundel.

Barry is promising a farce in the true style of Ray Cooney and Brian Rix, with a dash of Noel Coward, a splash of John Betjeman and a twist of Joe Orton.

“It’s my first Bennett as a director. I have lit a Bennett and been in a Bennett, but I haven’t directed one before.

“This one is a concoction of different styles. It was written by Alan Bennett in 1973, not long after Beyond The Fringe. It was his first major play in the West End.”

The piece shows how a collection of stereotypes from Hove (randy GP, sex-starved wife, their spotty hypochondriac son, know-it-all charlady etc) find themselves propelled into the permissive society with the arrival of a false-breast fitter from Leatherhead.

Identities are mistaken, the wrong breasts are admiringly fondled, and libidos burst out of enforced hibernation, Barry said.

“It’s just a complete romp. There are so many different strands to it. Every single character has a liaison of some sort.

“We have the randy vicar who looks up girls’ skirts. We have the young sister who is looking for a larger bust...

“It’s coming together very well. I asked the cast to really play up, to really play their characters to the hilt and play them as big as possible, and then we could pull it back a bit once we got into rehearsals.

“It has been fun to watch these characters develop.”

It helps considerably having their very own theatre: “The set is up already. We have been able to rehearse for three weeks on it, which doesn’t happen very often.

“I think it just gives them a lift. When they came in and saw it, everybody just said ‘Wow!’”

Tickets on 07523 417926.