Kissing Sid James, Jermyn Street Theatre, London


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The Independent Culture

Eddie – one of the two top stationery executives in the North of England – really knows how to show a girl a good time when he takes her away for a dirty weekend. Before ordering champagne from room service, he considerately offers her a choice: “Red or white?”.  

He likes to get the mood romantic and smoochy, even if he is no Paganini with the light-switches (“My dimmer at home is much more user-friendly”). And when he is on the job, he puts lead in his pencil using a technique that owes more to Match of the Day than to the Kama Sutra.

He recites a litany of vintage footballers – from Nobby Stiles to Geoff “Sir Geoff” Hurst. Not that he ever needs to remember many. If you’re guessing that Eddie is a touch inexperienced at this caper, then you would be dead right – as Crystal, the busty red-headed croupier (real name Babs) discovers during a grim get-away with him in a dingy seaside B&B in Kissing Sid James, Robert Farquhar’s broad-brush comedy which tends towards the Donald McGill rather than the David Mamet end of the spectrum in its portrayal of gender politics.

Revived in a robustly amusing production by Jason Lawson, the piece patrols territory familiar from plays such as The Owl and the Pussycat and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. But in those shows, the two mismatched loners discover some tentative common ground as they strip off each other’s pretensions through a rollercoaster night.

Here, the relationship is so grossly doomed from the outset (she’s the wounded casualty of a deadly 10-year marriage; he lives with his mother and has all the interpersonal skills of a papershredder) that you begin to feel that Farquhar is deliberately satirising the genre.

Alan Drake and Charlotte McKinney are very likeable and bring skilled vaudevillian timing to their double- act and to the daft routines – the naff, compulsively jabbering Eddie is gloriously miscast in silent, pantherine-tread mode as Sean Connery when they act out Crystal’s top sexual fantasy.

The script, though, goes for immediate laughs rather than longer-term pleasures, such as credible character development. Eddie’s one short-lived previous girlfriend told him that a snog with him was like “kissing Sid James”. Hence the title. I learn from the programme that the show is re-titled Kissing Mr Bean in Slovakia.

To 29 September (020 7287 2875)