John Inman

By Jeremy Miles

IT was enough to make you sign the pledge. Had you happened to wander out of Bournemouth's Pier Bar at the right moment the other lunchtime you would have witnessed a scene that was so surreal it was barely credible.

Super-camp star of 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? John Inman and Robin Askwith, the veteran sleazemeister from the Confessions Of..... films clambering into a giant teacup together.

The unlikely duo - can there be two entertainers with more disparate public images? - are the leading lights in the latest end of the pier show.

For the next six weeks they will romp their way through the classic farce Bedside Manners with Inman playing a hapless B&B boss wondering how to deal with the scandal of two couples who are having illicit affairs.

Never mind that the storyline bears absolutely no resemblance to anything that might happen in real life, Inman told me: "I think it's cheeky, a little risque in places but there's nothing too rude. I think it will appeal to the youngsters."

Prior to the play's opening at the Pier Theatre tonight he was busy helping to sell the show, climbing into the aforementioned teacup (part of the pier-end carousel) with Askwith and fellow cast members Louise English, Malcolm Lord and Georgina Moon in the name of publicity.

It was a truly bizarre sight as the men who, in another life, used to be mincing menswear salesman Mr Humphries and a randy window cleaner/driving instructor... you name it, performed for the cameras.

Passing members of the public looked on in astonishment. A child started crying (although in fairness I think this was because her father had said she couldn't have an ice-cream).

And John Inman beamed through his famous gap-teeth at the photographers before announcing in a quickly adapted version of his famous catch-phrase: "I'm free for a cup of tea."

Bedside Manners opens at Bournemouth's Pier theatre and runs until Saturday, September 6. For tickets and further information call 01202 456456.

© Jeremy Miles 2022