21st September - 16th January 1999
Royal National Theatre, London.
The Cast Geoffrey Hutchings
The Crew Written & Directed
The idea for the show was to portray the relationships of the films stars, namely Kenneth Williams, Sid James and Barbara Windsor, though snapshots from the filming of the Carry On films - and although the feel of the relationships are true, the actual content is part fiction and part fact. Johnson writes using the style of the films to get across the love/hate relationships of the stars, but touches on their Carry On caricatures for comic affect.
Part of the pleasure of the evening is watching such fine impersonations of well-loved stars. In looks, voice and bubbly personality, Samantha Spiro is uncannily like the young Barbara Windsor, brassily absurd but exuding an irresistible generosity of spirit. Geoffrey Hutchings hasn't quite got the wrinkled walnut face of Sid James, but he gets the cackling lechery off to a tee, while Adam Godley superbly captures the swoopingly camp disdainful voice, the amazing facial mugging and, above all, the corrosive misanthropy and self-contempt of Kenneth Williams.
The first half is like a Carry On film in itself, as libidinous Sid tries to get off with a succession of women including Barbara Windsor, his torch-carrying dresser (excellent Jacqueline Defferary) and the busty starlet Imogen Hassall, played by the busty starlet Gina Bellman in a manner that entirely explains Dennis Potter's infatuation with her. The comic coup de théâtre that ends Act One, following a wonderfully malicious act of sabotage by Kenneth Williams, is sheer joy.
Things become much darker after the interval. Sid has become seriously infatuated with Barbara and is growing old and ill. Barbara's unseen husband, the lowlife villain Ronnie Knight (he won't enjoy this play) is up on a murder charge, and Kenneth Williams is suffering agonies from both his piles and his desperately low self-esteem. There's still a good deal of entertaining bickering, plenty of off-colour one-liners, but you have come to care about these people now and their unhappiness matters.
Became the basis for the TV film Cor! Blimey, also written and directed by Terry Johnson.
Link to the review of the Sept 2006 production at the Bolton Octagon Theatre.