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The Good Life starring Rufus Hound
16th November 2021 - 20th November 2021
Adapted and Directed by Jeremy Sams
Based on the television series by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey
Remember the Goods – Tom and Barbara, suburban eco-warriors? And their next-door neighbours Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, desperately trying to maintain the Surbiton status quo?
Well, they’re back – and on stage for the first time in The Good Life, a theatrical reimagining of the TV sitcom that delighted countless millions, starring award-winning actor, presenter and comedian Rufus Hound as Tom and West End, television and film star Preeya Kalidas as Margo.
Jeremy Sams’s comedy leads the well-loved characters through uproarious adventures; some old, some new and often hilariously familiar.
This new play celebrates a time when, whatever our differences, we still managed to get on with our neighbours.
Rufus Hound’s extensive list of stage credits include the original West End production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, One Man Two Guvnors and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Preeya Kalidas’s film, stage and television credits include Bend It Like Beckham, Bombay Dreams and EastEnders. Jeremy Sams’s directing credits include the National Theatre’s West End and Broadway revival of Noises Off, the West End musical Spend, Spend, Spend, the international tour of The Sound of Music and Oklahoma! at Chichester Festival Theatre.
For more than thirty years, John Esmonde and Bob Larbey’s writing partnership was acclaimed for creating some of British sitcom’s greatest classics including Ever Decreasing Circles, Please Sir!, Brush Strokes and Mulberry.
Producer Fiery Angel’s numerous West End productions include Touching The Void; Hairspray; Home, I’m Darling; Long Day’s Journey Into Night; The Ladykillers; Ghost Stories; Mary Stuart and the inaugural West End season of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. Their production of The 39 Steps has been presented worldwide, winning Olivier, Tony and Molière Awards.
Production photos © Dan Tsantilis
For a whole generation of people of, ahem, a certain age, the names Margo and Jerry, Barbara and Tom (the Leadbetters and the Goods) are synonymous with suburbia or more specifically Surbiton and what was, at the time, a fairly radical change in lifestyle towards self-sufficiency.
Now there is a chance to relive some of those comedic moments as Bob Larbey and John Esmonde's The Good Life has been reborn as a stage play, written by Jeremy Sands and starring Rufus Hound, Sally Tatum, Preeya Kalidas and Dominic Rowan in the roles played on TV by Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington. Larbey and Esmonde wrote a number of successful comedies, which included Please Sir!, Get Some In!, Ever Decreasing Circles and Brush Strokes, and The Good Life was written specifically for Briers (the only one of the cast who was well-known at the time). You do not need to know the storyline as the comedy effectively goes back to the beginning of the TV series and introduces the characters in the same way, with Barbara and Tom, fed up with their lot and his job designing plastic creatures for packets of cornflakes (one of a number of little signs throughout the show which hark back to days when things were done differently).
The actors involved here are certainly not attempting to play the original actors - rather more they are giving their own spin on the characters and the show is an homage to those characters. So anyone expecting Preeya Kalidas to look or sound like Penelope Keith will be disappointed but she does accurately portray the pompous socialite, somewhat forthright and unforgiving but who nonetheless has a heart of gold. There is something in each of the characters which we can all recognise either in ourselves or others. This is helped by the theme of self-sufficiency which has resurfaced today with the public eye concerned about food miles, for example. Though few of us actually go to the extent of digging up our gardens and installing a menagerie of pigs, chickens and goats!
One potential problem with trying to reproduce comedy from that very 1970's era is that, unlike for example a 1970's-set drama, comedy can easily become outdated as tastes and humour change. Here there is, however, simple humour - the staple of a successful sitcom - which manages to overcome that and, whilst there are often hints at the period (the sophistication of a chicken dish emanating from the Ukraine (Kiev!), Mateus Rosé, Black Forest gateau, Unigate milk deliveries and the general look of the two cleverly-revolving sets…), there is sufficient in the story itself to keep the laughs coming, particularly so in the second half where more farcical elements are introduced when trying to save a new-born piglet. The other members of the cast - Nigel Betts and Tessa Churchward - have a number of rapid costume changes as they switch between their seven different characters.
And notwithstanding the obvious talents of the actors involved, they were somewhat upstaged by the goat…!
The good news is that Dame Penelope Keith will be returning to the Malvern stage on April 26th for a new play by Stephen Wyatt, Two Cigarettes in the Dark.