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Kissing Sid James

By • West End
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Kissing Sid James on National Tour

A little gem of a comedy - writer Robert Farquhar's Kissing Sid James - was almost lost amidst last year's World Cup fever. Hull Truck have decided to kick off their new season by giving punters another opportunity to catch the play.

Hannah Smith (Crystal) and Paul McCrink (Eddie) both return to revive the parts they played previously and both appear comfortable in their roles. McCrink combines some twitchy body movements with a grating nasal delivery to create an extremely nervy, nerdy comic character.

The play's title is something of a misnomer; anyone expecting a homage to Carry On or something resembling Terry Johnson's Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick will be left wanting. The title, which Farquhar apparently came up with a few years before applying ink to paper, refers to Eddie's osculatory technique and the main premise here is a dirty weekend away.

Grubby is the order of the day for Jessica Stack's set design, an approach that emphasises the seediness of the situation but will hardly endear it to the audience. Much of the action takes place in a filthy hotel bedroom located in a pensioner-laden, rain-soaked seaside town. Not the best place to indulge in a bit of lusty passion, which probably accounts for the fact that the two spend more time bickering and playing scrabble than they do between the sheets. It is this 'will they, won't they' atmosphere that allows some good one-liners to spring forth, and when this most incompatible of couples do make it to bed, we discover that Eddie prolongs his lovemaking by chanting the names of 1970's football legends. The pair also indulge in a little karaoke, massacring the Elvis standard 'Always On My Mind' and proving in the process that their singing is just as disharmonious as the two-day relationship they haven't enjoyed.

At present, the play, directed by Hull Truck stalwart Simon Stallworthy, lacks a little pace; as a result, some of the comic timing seems slightly out of kilter. One assumes, having seen last year's production and been mightily impressed, that this situation will improve with more performances. I'm not sure that Kissing Sid James stands up to repeated viewing; at second glance, it all feels rather ITV sit-com-ish. Even so, McCrink and Smith manage to hold the audience s attention throughout, and as light comedy goes, Kissing Sid James is a winner.

Dave Windass

At Hull Truck Theatre until 6 March, then on nation-wide tour until 29 May.


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