DATING is like chicken pox: we can’t predict when or where it will catch us out but it is safe to say it will. It is also an inescapable rite of passage.

An embattled ‘dater’, Claire Sweeney wears her bad experiences like a badge of honour; and she certainly has many a war story to share.

“When I was 16 I went on a date with a guy from the gas board,” she recalls. “I had borrowed my mother’s panty girdle – it was before the spanx. My dress ripped wide open from the base of my bum at the back right to the top when I sat down. I was horrified. I was more upset about him seeing my big knickers. He took me home and I walked up the steps backwards. I never heard from him again. When you’re 16 things always seem more traumatic. I wear spanx now.”

After a prompt from her producer, Claire committed her most mortifying dating stories to paper for posterity. This would form the bulk of Sex In Suburbia, a play she co-wrote with Mandy Muden.

“I was doing Tell Me On Sunday, a one woman show about a woman looking for love in all the wrong places. A lot of funny things were happing to me. I remember my producer saying to me ‘Write these down, they’re hysterical.’ I did it with my friend Mandy Muden and two years later we had Sex in Suburbia.”

The play follows Penny Crowe (Lindzi Germain), the host of a late-night radio phone-in. Britain’s leading Agony Aunt, she takes calls about every date from hell and the occasional one from heaven. Claire joins Penny on her show as a relationship expert while Carl Patrick revels in multiple roles which take in frigid footie fans, karate chopping kids and outrageous radio host, Rory Reynolds.

Initially set in Liverpool, the show was “de- Scoused’ before the play’s London run.

The simple fact that the girdle incident failed to make the cut, for being “too boring” is testament to the calibre of truly humiliating and raunchy anecdotes featured in this comedy of amorous errors.

“The craziest story in the play didn’t happen to me, it happened to a friend of mine,” admits the former Brookside actress. “She came home to find her boyfriend dancing round the living room in a ra-ra skirt. He was a very butch guy. We used it in the play but as a positive story. The woman in the play walks in on her husband wearing a dress and heels but she prefers him that way, because he’s more fun and it saves their marriage. They have a ball together.”

The girdle incident may have been jettisoned but her disastrous dating history is mirrored by Cheryl’s, a character loosely based on herself. Pre-Mr Right and giving birth to her son Jaxon, that is.

“She a girl going through numerous dates, all disastrous, but all she wants is to find Mr Right and have a baby. That was me a few years ago.

“But I found my Mr Right and I have my son- I love him to bits.”

Motherhood prompted her to do some rewrites and in the play she now shares real anecdotes about her pregnancy.

In the spirit of female, and male, solidarity – the show is not aimed solely at women; indeed it takes two to tango – spectators are invited to get up on stage and share their tales of strife.

“Dating is a classless subject, everybody can relate. You get a group of women around a table and start talking about dating and everyone has a story to tell.”

But there has been the occasional over-sharer on stage.

“One woman told us she was a swinger and that she had a band aid on her arm because of a sex injury. Her honesty was staggering.”

Sex in Suburbia will run at the Wyvern Theatre on Monday, April 13 and Tuesday 14 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £22. To book call 01793 524481 or visit