It's 11 on a damp Thursday morning at a deserted restaurant on the Albert Dock, and I’ve just asked Steven Pinder and Debra Stephenson to look as though they’re on a dinner date.
Being professionals the actors are game, even though – as they admit when we subsequently sit down for a chat – they’ve never met before.
“It’s very strange,” says Debra, “because you always end up doing things like eyelines or have to look at each other, and you get these false conversations.
“Now and again you get a job where you actually have to play a scene where you’re in bed with that person and you’ve never met them before. Nothing’s as bad as that.”
Steven laughs: “Nothing’s as bad as THAT!”
“Well, it’s embarrassing,” Debra counters. “Straight in there, nice to meet you – pull the covers over!”
Luckily for the pair, who obviously hit it off despite this being their first conversation, the show we’re talking about – Last of the Red Hot Lovers – deliberately doesn’t live up to its title.
“It’s not at all romantic in any way, shape or form,” says the actress. “It’s very funny. I’m not sure I’d call it a romantic comedy. Perhaps a NON romantic comedy.”
Neil Simon’s hit is set in the late 60s (it premiered in 1969) and is centred around married Barney Cashman who is having a mid-life crisis and decides he wants to join the sexual revolution before it passes him by.
He invites three very different women over to his mother’s apartment at three different times. But none of the ‘dates’ goes to plan.
“It’s going to be fun having a mid-life crisis,” announces Steven, who is playing Barney.
“I’ve already done the research on that, unfortunately I did that in my 40s, so I’m just tapping into that.”
The three women meanwhile are all being portrayed by impressions queen Debra.
“It’s a two-hander, except I’m playing three different characters,” she confirms. “And we’re both on stage at the same time, for the whole time.”
The 41-year-old Corrie, Bad Girls and Impressions Show actress turns to her co-star and adds: “I’ve got to tell you something. You’re not going to be happy about this – apart from panto, this is my theatrical debut.”
“Is it?” Steven says. “And it’s a 10-day rehearsal. No, I’m not phased!”
It’s true that since she graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University 18 years ago, Debra’s CV has been small-screen dominated.
“I did always mean to do theatre, but nothing has ever come up I particularly wanted to do,” she admits.
“But this is a funny script, there’s lots going on between the two characters, and not only that but I’ve got three people to play. So I couldn’t be happier.”
It’s a twist to the norm which appeals to Steven, perhaps still best-known for playing thrice-married Max Farnham in Brookside.
He explains: “In a sense, because it’s one actress playing all three roles, it’s almost like every woman isn’t it?
“It’s like – this is an example of one woman, this is an example of another...”
Debra adds: “We’re not one person, there’s lots of different aspects to lots of people.
“It might be interesting from that point of view to say well, it could all be the same woman having all these different feelings at the same time.
“One is really up for it, one isn’t, and the one in the middle is just like on another planet!”
Last of the Red Hot Lovers is at St Helens Theatre Royal, June 11-14.