Habeas Corpus


Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett

Director: Tony Fullwood

Performances: 20th-28th April with Saturday matinees on 21st & 28th

Auditions will be held at the Maddermarket Theatre  on :

First Round: Wednesday 3rd January (6.30-9.30pm) AND Friday 5th January (6.30-9.30pm)

Second Round: Friday 12 January (6.30-9.30pm) AND Sun 14th January (10am-1pm)

Audition Format 

For most characters, the audition will consist of an individual 20-minute session with the director during which you should perform the audition speech you have learnt.

However, for DENNIS and FELICITY and CONNIE and THROBBING it will be preferable to use a duologue – see audition speech sheets – so I will try to pair people up accordingly for audition purposes. 

How to register

Please select preferred first round audition date and email me on : fullwoodthomas@ntlworld.com and I will confirm the timing with you.

You should also give your mobile/home phone number and indicate the part you wish to audition for and I will send you the speech that needs to be learned for the audition.

ALTERNATIVELY, you can sign up in person in the Maddermarket Office where the audition speeches will also be available.


A reading copy of the play will be available in the Maddermarket Office. Auditionees are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with the play.


Rehearsals begin week commencing 5th March from 7-10pm on weekday evenings. You can expect to be required for between TWO to FOUR evenings per week depending on size of role. Some weekend rehearsals may be required if we fall behind through absence or illness.

The play will be divided into 7 scenes for rehearsal purposes with very brief appearances excluded from the first month of rehearsals.   

Performances: 20th-28th April with Saturday matinees on 21st & 28th

About the play

Habeas Corpus is a farce set in the late 1960s which sees a gallery of middle-class, mostly middle-aged, characters come under the influence of the Permissive Society. The characters are driven by hidden desires that are set loose by mistaken identities and contrived plotting. Trousers and the odd dress fall as everyone lusts after someone, sometimes several someones, desperate to satisfy their bodily desires.

The characters are derived from notable comic types: a randy GP, a sex-starved wife, a voyeuristic vicar and a frustrated spinster, giving Habeas Corpusthe ingredients for a dramatic equivalent of a saucy seaside postcard, but they are lifted from cliché by Bennett’s wit and wisdom. The result is hilarious, satirical and finally (an apt word for this play) touching.

Will Sir Percy overcome his height-issues and take revenge on Arthur who stole Muriel, his first love? Will delicious Felicity inveigle an innocent into marriage? Will the Canon finally wed Connie or will she get a better offer? Will Dr Wicksteed be struck off? Will Mr Shanks ever find his trousers? And will Mr Purdue, one of Dr W’s patients, succeed in hanging himself?  Proceedings are overseen by the Wicksteeds’ cook/cleaner/housekeeper called, of course, Mrs Swabb, who is also a behaviourist and philosopher. Will any of them fulfil their desires in a time when new-found freedom comes up against old-time respectability?

About the production

Habeas Corpus requires exquisite pace and timing in the playing. Everyone is slightly larger than life but we need to achieve a careful balance between a degree of exaggeration in performance to project these characters when their desires are suddenly let loose, whilst keeping just within the bounds of credibility. There is a short dance at the end involving all the cast for which training will be given. In addition, on a few other occasions, some characters sing and/or dance for a few lines but these will be straightforward so should not cause alarm.

Casting Breakdown: 5m/4f

All ages are playing ages and approximate.

NB: Several of the characters need to conform to a physical type. Costume and padding can help transform appearance, but there are limits over to what extent an actor's natural physicality can be significantly changed, so please bear this in mind when considering parts. 


Muriel Wicksteed, 50-ish, physically large and well-endowed  - but we can add padding! Strong-willed and assertive. She is a respectable but dissatisfied GP’s wife until opportunity knocks then as insatiable as they come. Think Hyacinth Bucket discovering aphrodisiacs. In all 7 rehearsal scenes; 300 lines.


Mrs Swabb, 40-60+, the Wicksteeds’ cook/cleaner/housekeeper. She ‘represents ye working classes’ but is also the play’s philosopher and stage manager. Always nosey, she observes and comments on everything but she is the only one who desires nothing for herself: ‘Me, I don’t bother with sex. I leave that to the experts!’ In 4 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 180 lines.

Lady Rumpers, 40-50, a highly-respectable ‘old Colonial lady’. Widow of General  Rumpers, she is newly-returned from the last shades of Empire to an England she doesn’t understand. She has a secret past that will, inevitably, catch up with her. In 4 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 170 lines.

Felicity Rumpers, 20-ish, the beautiful daughter of Lady Rumpers. The target of lustful men but her innocence masks a ruthlessness of her own when she has to find a husband to protect her name from her unplanned pregnancy.  Needs to appear for some time in her underclothes/slip. In 4 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 120 lines.

Constance Wicksteed, 30-40, the doctor’s sister, physically slight and flat-chested. A mousey spinster long engaged to Canon Throbbing but full of suppressed desires that he is unlikely to fulfil. Her life suddenly changes once she is fitted with her bust enhancement appliance and (after a good deal of chaos) she finishes the play a new woman. In 6 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 100 lines.


Arthur Wicksteed, 50s, the randiest GP in Hove, or so he’d wish. His frenzy of desperation to seize the day is an attempt to fight off middle-age and his fear of mortality. For all his lies and predatory behaviour, there is something (almost) heroic about his desire to defeat time. In all 7 rehearsal scenes; 450 lines.

Sir Percy Shorter, 50s and short. Makes up for his lack of stature by ambition hence he is President of the British Medical Association. Highly respectable, highly-sexed and after revenge. Briefly trouserless. In 5 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 250 lines.


Canon Throbbing, Late 30s/early 40s: it would help if he was tallish. Archetypal C of E clergyman with the bicycle clips to prove it but his name says it all. Long engaged to Connie Wicksteed and getting desperate. His clerical garb barely conceals his prurient desires. In 5 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 140 lines.

Dennis Wicksteed, 20ish. A depressive hypochondriac who scours his father’s medical textbooks for his next ailment until he’s spotted by the beautiful Felicity and his life (for a time) blossoms. In 6 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 110 lines.

Mr Shanks, 25-40, eager, conscientious fitter of the ‘Rubens breast enhancement appliance’. He spends much time approaching the wrong women and trouserless. In 3 (of 7) rehearsal scenes; 80 lines.


Mr Purdue, any age post 30, a depressive, ever attempting innovative methods of suicide. He has to appear to be hanged on stage and survive! Also trouserless for a while. In 1 (of 7) rehearsal scenes plus a couple of other brief appearances; 15 lines.