Feb 6, 2019
Category: News
Posted by: Keith Nuttall


'ALLO ALLO' directed by Jennie Scott-Reid , to be performed on Friday 31st May, Saturday 1st June and Sunday 2nd June, at Clavering Village Hall

Clavering Players Website

Habeas Corpus (Bennett)

This play highlights the sexual excesses of the Middle Classes in the 1960s. It centres around Dr Arthur Wicksteed, his family and some of the people they meet. There are three main plots, all of which meet at some point in the proceedings.

Arthur Wicksteed MD, trusted medical practitioner, is tempted by the feminine charms of a young lady who wanders into his surgery one afternoon feeling faint. By chance, she meets the Doctor's hypochondriac son, Dennis, during her visit and learns that he is terminally ill with Brett's Palsy. This is the answer to her dreams as the honorable Felicity Rumpers is with child out of wedlock, a heinous crime, even in those promiscuous times. Three months of wedded bliss, with the terminally ill Dennis, will give her the respectability she needs when the baby eventually arrives, hopefully nine months from the announcement of their engagement.

Arthur's sister, Connie, is a little challenged around the mammalian protuberances and hence has difficulty in attracting acceptable male suitors. Her current courtship with the limp but good natured Canon Throbbing has spent ten years in complete stagnation. Connie's fortunes change with the arrival of an appliance designed to give more proportion to her frontage as she uses her new found confidence to attract the visiting President of the BMA, Sir Percy Shorter. Arthur's wife, Muriel, is more than a little put out by Percy's preference for the dowdy Connie, especially as it was she who arranged for the eminent physician to visit with the intention of resuming an earlier relationship. Muriel is not left out of the relational merry-go-round as she welcomes Connie's appliance fitter into the house. He immediately believes that he has found the right Wicksteed and begins to adjust the appliance. She believes that he is exercising an incredibly cheeky opening gambit and responds with pleasure to his flattery. Still at cross purposes Denzil Shanks, a perfectionist and master of his craft, takes photographs of Muriel to share with his colleagues back at Leatherhead, the appliance fitter headquarters.

As the play progresses there is indignation and counter-indignation as the various blossoming relationships are revealed to spouses and lovers. Muriel banishes Arthur from the family home for his intentions toward Felicity, Sir Percy threatens to have Arthur struck from the medical register and the Canon pleads with Connie to return to him. Felicity learns that Dennis is a hypochondriac and unlikely to die and Sir Percy glimpses Connie without her appliance and rejects her.

The key to unraveling this maelstrom of hypocrisy is the arrival of Lady Rumpers, mother of Felicity, who manages to discover that Sir Percy was the locum with whom she had sexual relations under the table   during an air raid in Liverpool just prior to boarding a ship to the colonies. Thus, the identity of Felicity's father is revealed. Arthur's fortunes take a sudden turn for the better as a little quid pro quo is suggested, even more so when he discovers the photographs of Muriel taken by Shanks. Suffice to say that, most people got what they wanted in the end, with the possible exception of Canon Throbbing. To see who got whom I suggest you read the play.

The whole drama is narrated by Mrs Swabb, house keeper to the Wicksteeds and representative of the working classes. Part of the irony was the maintenance of a higher moral standard by those who toil by the sweat of their brow as compared with the more privileged few. To aid Mrs Swabb in her castigation of the middle classes another character was introduced, Mr Purdue, a manic depressive whose National Health status led to his plight and subsequent attempts at suicide being ignored by the good doctor.


The Cast:

Dr Arthur Wicksteed  - Gordon Cummings

Mrs Swabb  - Jennifer Scott-Reid

Mrs Wicksteed  - Sylvia Martinelli

Dennis Wicksteed  - Stuart Pringle

Constance Wicksteed  - Sue Clatworthy

Canon Throbbing - Richard Westbrook

Sir Percy Shorter KCB - Geoff Hallett

Lady Rumpers - Bundle Weston

Felicity Rumpers - Becky Pini

Mr Shanks - Tony Weston

Mr Purdue - Ian Miller

Director - Ken Kemp


A REVIEW by Toby Allanson

(The Herts and Essex Observer)

'Subtle Players Capture Hearts'

'Habeas Corpus', Alan Bennett's expose of the loose morals of the 1970's middle England was given tremendous treatment by Clavering Players.

The village hall shook to the sound of raucous laughter on Thursday as the audience roared its approval of director Kenneth Kemp's reading of the sexually-charged farce.

With virtually no props and the barest of stages, the play  placed a heavy burden on the actors, who rose to the occasion splendidly. With a  comedy such as this, timing is the key as there was barely a cue missed as  trousers fell down at the appropriate - or should that be inappropriate - times and the punchlines kept coming.

Rather than playing them as exaggerated comic stereotypes, the actors gave their characters depth and substance. Gordon Cummings was rather sinister, as well as frequently hilarious, Dr Wicksteed. The same can be said for Richard Westbrook, who performed with devilish glee as the seedy Canon Throbbing.

Sue Clatworthy looked ideal as the simpering, nervous Connie Wicksteed, all hunched shoulders and pinched features.

Becky Pini was a seductive Felicity Rumpers and Stuart Pringle had a subtle detachment from reality as the hypochondriac and, ironically, doomed Dennis Wicksteed.

Jennifer Scott-Reid was splendid, delivering a Victoria Wood-esque performance as cleaner Mrs Swabb, revelling in the disastrous excesses of her supposed superiors.

Ian Miller gave an entertainingly wild-eyes cameo as the suicidal Mr Purdue, let down by the NHS.

It would have been easy to stage the play in a completely over the top fashion, but it was the cleverly understated nature of the performances that made the outlandish set pieces so entertaining when they arrived.

While on a superficial level the play was frothy and light, there was far more depth and it was the darker themes, handled superbly by the actors, which made 'Habeas Corpus' such a memorable experience.