Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick, Citizens', Glasgow

Citizens', Glasgow

Like his 1994 hit, Dead Funny, Terry Johnson's Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick marks the passing of a cheap-and-cheerful era of British comedy. Where the earlier play celebrated Benny Hill and Frankie Howerd, this one is a tribute to the seaside humour of the Carry On franchise.

But there's a crucial difference between the two. Dead Funny is about a group of men who are obsessed by dead comedians. Johnson's masterstroke was to present their lives as a sad echo of the trouser-dropping routines of their heroes. It's a funny play, but also poignant.

Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick, by contrast, has no such double perspective. It is straightforwardly a play about Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor as they bicker and bonk their way from 1964's Carry on Cleo to 1978's Carry on Emmanuelle, just after James's death. As a biographical study, it is moderately interesting, but as a play, it has no metaphorical dimension: what you see is what you get.

Seeing Kenny Miller's good-looking production, I'm as puzzled now as I was in 1998 that it should have won an Olivier Award for best comedy. Johnson's dialogue captures well the sparky, sarky patter of the pompous Williams and the wise-cracking James, but only the odd line makes you laugh out loud.

Audiences are fond of the scene in which James's caravan tips over, propelling three semi-clad women into his lap, but it would have more impact if it seemed like the first act's icing instead of its raison d'être.

Because of this, you end up rating the play in terms of the actors' impersonations: Andrew Clark doing an excellent Sid, Garry Collins with the petulance but not the languor of Kenneth, and Lisa Stevenson as a psychologically credible Barbara. If only the play had something more going for it than that.

· Until February 26. Box office: 0141-429 0022.


Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

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