Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1999, Terry Johnson’s play about the three main characters featured in the Carry On films is part homage and part farce with some pathos thrown in for good measure.
The difficulty with this piece is the director’s choice - do you go for straight impersonation or do you just give a flavour of the character? In this production there’s an uncomfortable mix of two who successfully attempt the impersonation and one who doesn’t.
CP Hallam makes a good attempt at capturing the sneering, caustic Kenneth Williams, ever ready with a sharp riposte. However, for some reason Clive Mendus makes no attempt to either look or sound like the pivotal character of Sid James. This may have been a joint decision with director Paul Hunter but unfortunately it just didn’t work in contrast with the others.
Fortunately young Sophie Abelson bailed them out with a terrific performance as the bubbly, blonde Barbara Windsor. She looks incredibly like the original and her delivery as the giggly starlet is spot on. She not only saved the day, she saved the play.
Directed by Octagon Associated Artist Paul Hunter, the pace needs to be far sharper to do justice to what could have been a much funnier look behind the scenes. Although things improved in the darker second act, some groping for words lost some of the impetus and many of the laughs in this comedy.