Scene 10. Hotel room. Early Morning. New Year's Day. Stage direction: She kisses her way up his body to his lips. He submits, responds. The kiss goes on until ...

It's a hard job, certainly no pun intended, but someone's got to do it - lie around in bed with Zoe Lucker, the blonde, filthy vixen of Footballers' Wives.

Shane Cortese is up for it. "Come on, I must be one of the luckiest guys in the country," splutters the actor. "It's not a hardship, and it is done very tastefully."

Cortese and Lucker are will-they, won't-they lovers John and Jane in James Griffin's romantic comedy Then Comes Love, which is touring the country with an eye on the international circuit.

When John, who writes romance novels under a woman's pseudonym, and Jane, an accountant, meet early on New Year's Day, it's a chance encounter that affects them both emotionally - but Jane is engaged and John is married. A series of meetings deepens the attraction and by Scene 11, a year later, they have to make a life-changing decision.

With just the two characters, both actors initially found the talk-heavy script daunting. Before Lucker arrived in New Zealand to start rehearsals, she and Cortese - the Shortland Street star who wowed fans with his Dancing With the Stars expertise - spoke on the phone about the challenges of the project.

Lucker, a girl from "oop north" - Huddersfield in Yorkshire - is not one to mince her words.

"We got on like a house on fire," recalls Cortese. "Zoe is a typical Huddersfield lass, vivacious and fun. We were on the phone and I said, 'Excuse my language Zoe, but this is the most amount of words I've ever had to learn, I've been wetting myself'.

"And she said, 'Oh for fook's sake, I'm fooking shitting myself!' I thought, thank God I've got someone on my wavelength."

Director David McPhail became involved in the project through a connection with former Opera NZ artistic director Jonathan Alver, who has since set up a British-based production company, Volcanic Island.

So the New Zealand tour could be the preliminary for bigger things. "There is nothing in the play that is regional ... so it has the potential to be staged in any country," says Cortese. "I think the intention is to take it to Britain."

Alver already had his eye on Cortese before he approached McPhail. "I was perfectly happy with that," says McPhail. "He also wanted an English actress and he mentioned Zoe, who I must admit at the time I didn't know. I watched some episodes of Footballers' Wives and thought the two of them looked like a very good combination."

The life of the play depends on that combination, Cortese agrees. "There has to be a spark between them that grows and the audience has to go along with it ... because they are intensely interested in how this relationship will develop."

John, as the married man, could be horribly unsympathetic played the wrong way. "We talked about that today [in rehearsals in Auckland before the tour started]. We were worried about it.

"But as far as I'm concerned he is going through a huge transitional stage in his life and is not happy in his marriage. He is questioning it. They are both questioning whether that's their lot."

As for scenes like "kissing her way up his body", McPhail points out that the staging is all about implications. "People are not coming to a play like this to be suddenly thrust in front of a peep show - there are many other ways of doing it."

Besides, we don't need to see Lucker doing red-hot sex scenes - for that you can turn to the DVDs of Footballers' Wives. But there is much more to Lucker, the actress, than tarty Tanya Tucker.

*What: Then Comes Love
*Where and when: Civic Theatre, Sep 6-11; Founders Theatre, Hamilton, Sep 13, 14