Three Sisters Rehearsals

Eddie, the sad stationery salesman and mother's boy in Robert Farquhar's 1992 play, was once told by an unenthusiastic girlfriend that kissing him was like kissing Sid James.

Eddie's new date on a seaside weekend (location unspecified) in a pink but dowdy bed and breakfast is a croupier called Crystal, once married to a carpet fitter with an unhealthy interest in underlay (what does that mean, exactly?); her real name is Babs.

Thus one of the unlikeliest affairs in show business, that of the womanising ugly mug comic Sid James (who died in 1989) and his Carry On busty colleague and on-set obsession, Barbara Windsor, is slyly evoked in this equally unlikely liaison.

Alan Drake, Charlotte McKinney and Jason Lawson. Photo: Andy Barnes

The Sid and Babs story was more literally, and ebulliently, dealt with by Terry Johnson in his deliriously funny Cleo, Camping, Emannuelle and Dick; Farquhar's play is more like one of those touching, but slightly old-fashioned romantic getting-to-know-you scenarios in plays by Charles Dyer, Bernard Slade or indeed Neil Simon... with added corny explicitness.

There's a scene of fumbling congress under the sheets that is embarrassing in almost every way, while Crystal's Sean Connery fantasy is even more routinely obvious than her fetish for matching leopard skin attire and black lingerie.

Still, the awkward and intimate situations are very well played in Jason Lawson's production by moustachioed Alan Drake and redhead Charlotte McKinney; he has the blinkered, beige demeanour of the natural nerd whose idea of a sex object is Betty Rubble in The Flintstones, while she has the leonine look of a luscious lover raring to go... should the opportunity ever arise.

I think they miss a trick in not coinciding melodiously, if only for a few seconds, in the ghastly karaoke scene. And Mike Lees' otherwise cheerily depressing design doesn't solve the problem of exterior scenes in a hospital or on the station platform. It's not a bad little play but not as delightful a discovery as we're used to these days in Jermyn Street.

Photo: Francis Loney