sid and joan

Funny Faces

The Artrix



Funny Faces is a production consisting of two one act plays celebrating the lives of Joan Sims and Sid James. 

Joan Sims takes a walk down memory lane in SIMply JOAN and Wot Sid Did sees Sid James in his stage dressing room in the hour before his last performance. The studio setting was perfect for an intimate ‘chat’ with these two stars of British comedy.

The more successful of the two acts is certainly Caroline Nash’s portrayal of Joan Sims in SIMply JOAN.

We meet Joan in a props cupboard as she seeks some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of a wrap party (which, as she remarks, is an appropriate name for a party that serves buffet food covered in cling film).

Nash as ‘Joanie’ immediately engages with the audience, relating incidents from the life and career of the famous actress of the Carry On films.

Born in May 1930, Joan trained at RADA and began her life on the stage touring provincial repertory theatres before getting her first role on the big screen in Carry On Nurse where she met lifelong friends Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams, and Charles Hawtry. 

Hattie was to become her dearest friend, a confidante and the person she turned to for advice. The sadness and regret is palpable as Nash describes the loss of these cherished friends.

There was Joan’s inability to attend Jacques’s funeral due to being drunk, and only making it to the wake because it was a ‘requirement of Hattie’s will that they all get together and get pissed.’ and then her angst following Kenneth William’s suicide at not being able to help him in the same way he had helped her.


Joan confides in the audience about her addiction to alcohol and its consequences, and the necessary decision to go into rehab to ‘dry out’.  Throughout the performance, Nash quaffs glasses of Diet Coke, not only Joan’s preferred replacement for alcohol,  but also as a welcome ‘lubricant’ for Nash during this hour long piece.

For all her successes, Joan never found true happiness within her private life, (ironic considering she was told her face was too happy for serious roles) nor did she ever feel confident or good enough.

Nash manages to play out the emotions and tribulations of Joan’s life quite beautifully, engaging the audience with professional style, humour and at times, sadness.

A superb performance, enthralling from the first line until the last, a very apt, ‘time to carry on’

In Wot Sid Did, we meet Sid James (Steve Dimmer), in his dressing room as he prepares to go on stage for what will be his final performance. Most people think of Sid James as the rough and ready Cockney, but he was actually a Jewish South African, born Solomon Joel Cohen in Johannesburg.

After moving to England, and whilst working as a hairdresser, he got bit parts in various productions (including The Lavender Hill Mob). This culminated in a meeting with Tony Hancock who offered him a role on his radio show.

Although Sid had a ‘face for the radio’, (Hancock described him as ‘looking like John Wayne with syphilis’) he was initially reluctant to take up the offer, but with some encouragement he soon became a regular and popular part of Hancock’s shows. Working together on TV and radio they were to become great friends.


This play portrays the inveterate gambler, smoker, drinker and womaniser. Hitting the whisky with great enthusiasm Sid recalls the better times when he was king pin in the Carry On films, reflects on his childhood, his three marriages, three children and the real love of his life Barbara Windsor.

His reputation as a serial lothario with strings of nubile fillies in tow looms large in this piece, but the frequent references to his genuine love for ‘Babs’ and his inability to get over their breakup highlights the sadness behind that trademark laugh.

In a ghostly finale Sid relates how his hedonistic, alcohol and fag fuelled lifestyle eventually took its toll and led to him collapsing on stage in a production of The Mating Season with both the audience and cast believing it to be a practical joke, even the doctor that was called to the stage thought he had ‘been had’. Sid died in hospital an hour later at the age of 62.

Steve Dimmer as Sid James, (also the writer of both plays) is a little hesitant at times and the characterisation is not as convincing as it could be. The writing for Wot Sid Did is not quite as strong as that for SIMply Joan and is the less engaging of the two plays. That being said, this original and interesting production that gives a glimpse into the real lives behind those Funny Faces is certainly worth seeing.

Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith


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