Writer: Steve Dimmer
Director: Rosemary Hill
Reviewer: James Garrington
It’s 60 years since the Carry On films first appeared on our screens with Carry On Sergeant. For many years fans waited in eager anticipation as one or often two new films were released per year, each usually with a very similar cast whose names became synonymous with the franchise – Kenneth Williams, Barbara Windsor, Charles Hawtrey, all of these and many more became household names with instantly recognisable faces.
Funny Faces focuses on two of the stars, with a cast of two performing in a double-bill of one-act plays. First up is SIMply JOAN with Caroline Nash as Joan Sims, reminiscing while taking a break from a wrap party to mark the end of filming a TV show. She touches on her childhood and talks about her relationship with her parents and with her Carry On co-stars, and her loneliness. Nash has a good facility for voices and uses it well to portray the many other people she talks about. She also has a wonderfully engaging knack of establishing eye contact with the audience, drawing people into her performance to great effect. Nash’s Sims is perhaps quieter and more reflective than the persona she presents on screen, but that very likely mirrors her real personality. A somewhat poignant and reflective piece, SIMply JOAN shows how often a larger-than-life on-screen character can mask real-life pain and sorrow.
Then we move on to WOT SID DID with Steve Dimmer in the role of Sid James preparing for his – as it turns out – final stage performance. Dimmer presents Sid James as very much the larger-than-life character you see on screen, full of gags and complete with the unmistakeable mischievous chuckle. He’s a hard drinking, hard smoking gambler on his third marriage, yet still engaged in an affair with a married woman. This play has more the feel of a piece of acting rather than having the story-telling qualities we find in the first piece, with less emphasis on the reminiscence and more on the action. This serves well to help establish the character, and while it therefore lacks some of the more engaging moments of SIMply Joan it doesn’t detract from getting the background story across, much of which revolves around his relationships – emotional, intimate or otherwise – with his co-stars in whatever particular production he happens to be engaged.
This is a well-researched and beautifully written script (also by Dimmer), at times moving but always tempered with a large degree of comedy. Of course, as a member of the general public you never really know these people, but the scripts – and the performances by both Nash and Dimmer – seem to capture the essence of what we imagine them to be like.
An affectionate tribute to two of our best-loved comedy stars, Funny Faces is worth catching – if not at the Old Joint Stock then on one of the many other stops on its tour.
Runs Until 22 September 2018 | Image: Contributed