THIS is not Edward Lear's fluffy The Owl And The Pussycat, but Bill Manfoff's 1964 American comedy, later transformed into a 1970 film with Barbra Streisand and George Segal.

The "owl" is F Sherman (American actor Cornelius Geaney Jr). a serious, self-deluded San Francisco writer whose high opinion of himself is not alas shared by publishers. He calls himself Felix, an upgrade from his real name, Fred.

The "pussycat" is Doris W (Olivia Sloyan, from Liverpool, but you would never know it!), a livewire loose cannon, who works as a prostitute in his neighbouring apartment but wants everyone to think she is a model and actress.

So begins a deeply, darkly, humorous two-hander that twists and turns unpredictably, full of psychological surprises and warmth in equal measure, where both Sherman and Doris put up fronts, struggling with settling for who they really are, preferring to play games, yet desperately drawn to each other.

Graham Kirk's compact set for Sherman's apartment (with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge escape route) adds to the intensity; Geaney's Sherman is on the edge, bordering on weird, the straight man in a double act with Sloyan's electric, vivacious Doris, under Mark Stratton's astute direction as the sands shift.

The Owl And The Pussycat, Esk Valley Theatre, on tour until November 10. See for dates.