The Good Life
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.
This new play starring Rufus Hound as Tom, Preeya Kalidas as Margo, Dominic Rowan as Jerry and Sally Tatum as Barbara celebrates a time when, whatever our differences, we still managed to get on with our neighbours.
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.
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The Good Life ON TOUR
Our review on The Good Life
The Good Life - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 26th October 2021 by Karen Ryder
“Mum! Can we watch the show that has the lady with the wellies?”
That is mini me back in the day, wanting to watch re-runs of the 1970’s sitcom The Good Life. So when the opportunity came to watch tonight’s show I grabbed it with the enthusiasm of Tom and Barbara watching their first seedling grow. As we walked into the theatre we were greeted by the sitcoms theme tune, immediately filling us with a homely feel and plenty of happy nostalgia. But on the drive to the theatre I had so many questions – How would they stage a show that took place between two houses and a front and back garden? How would the story work? Would it be a brand new story that simply used the characters of the show? Would it be a few episodes running back to back? Would it be a montage of best bits? What would they do about all the live animals? How on earth would they recreate Margo?
Well I now have the answers to all those questions, and despite of seeing some early reviews from the start of the tour that suggested fans of the show would be bitterly disappointed – I absolutely was not! So nerr! (Yes, childish and unnecessary I know, but I also find it unnecessary to knock a perfectly good production because it isn’t an exact replica of its name sake). After all, why would it do that? Theatre and television are two different mediums for a reason, but that’s a whole different topic and I’m getting off the point.
The Good Life, originally written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde has been adapted for stage by Jeremy Sam. Both versions tell the story of Tom and Barbara Good as they decide to break the cycle of the rat race to become self-sufficient. Tom quits his job as a designer of plastic cereal toys on his 40th birthday and their new life begins, much to the disgust of their friends and neighbours Jerry and Margo Leadbeatter. The story follows their hilarious journey of mishaps, disappointments, achievements and celebrations as they learn to live off the land and cope without mod cons such as electricity. So to answer one of my earlier questions, the stage adaptation has storylines from both the television series and new ones for the stage. To me, that is the best of both worlds. Jeremy Sam has selected some of the most memorable bits across the television series along with his original work and cleverly woven them altogether to form a new yet instantly recognisable tapestry.
Rufus Hound (comedian, Trollied, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, regular panellist on Celebrity Juice and Argumental, Let’s dance for Comic Relief to name a few) plays Tom Good and doesn’t try to caricature the part by imitating the original role, but makes it his own. He is funny, charming and has a natural rapport with both cast and audience. This was highlighted when he minimally slipped up on a line and Sally Tatum (Episodes, Pennyworth, My Mad Fat Diary) who plays Barbara Good, made the perfect joke at the perfect time to make light of the situation and the whole thing became funny because the audience were made a part of it - so much so that they cheered along when he got the line right, prompting Rufus to take a comedic bow! Sally Tatum is great in the role of excitable yet exhausted Barbara and her and Rufus Hound create a very believable partnership on stage. Dominic Rowan (The Crown, Law & Order UK, numerous Shakespeare and National Theatre plays) plays Jerry Leadbetter with conviction, portraying him as a self-assured man at work and with friends, yet at the same time completely under the thumb of his demanding wife Margo at home. Again, he has a great partnership with his stage wife Margo, played by Preeya Kalidas (best known for playing Amira in Eastenders, Mistresses, Bombay Dreams, Bend It Like Beckham) Preeya arguably had the hardest challenge of recreating Margo, for literally every time I told someone I was coming to watch The Good Life, they all said “Oooh, there had better be a good Margo" so the expectation was high. This is because without the character of Margo looking down her nose at everything the Goods do, yet somehow still loving them, there would be no comedy, no humour. So, how was she? Fantastic! Again, not a carbon copy of the tv version but the essence of the character was still there exactly as you’d want it to be. I’m personally glad the characters were not carbon copies because that can only ever lead to biased comparison and disappointment. And lets face it, that version of the show would become about how good an impersonator someone was and not about the acting, the characters or the story. These four actors formed a perfect team of putting their own mark on it, yet keeping true to the parts an audience would want to see. The cast would absolutely not be complete without Nigel Betts (Ridley Road, All Creatures Great And Small, The A Word, Eastenders, Boy Meets Girl) and Tessa Churchard (Eastenders, Dixi) Nigel and Tessa played every other role the show required, such as milkman, policeman, doctor, doctors receptionist, Jerrys boss and his wife and many more. They were so funny, fast and farcical that the audience would giggle and clap every time they came on stage in a new role. It became an in joke of the play “who would they appear as next?” Every character they played was unique – what a great part as an actor and what great actors to do it justice.
The scenery was always a quick and efficient turn around between the Good’s humble house and the Leadbetters “keeping up with the Jones’” house. Both lay on opposite sides of a revolving set piece which worked really well. No scenes were set in the garden, which whilst I understand the staging logistics of this, I would have loved to have seen as the story is about being self-sufficient and living off the land, yet we didn’t get to see that (or any wellies!!!! Mini me is devastated at the missing wellies but that’s just a personal memory thing). Instead the outside was brought inside with mechanical goats (and thank god it was mechanical as it pooped everywhere) and piglets (a fantastic and moving section where everyone bonds and works together to help save a dying piglet). There were great jokes placing the show in the 70’s such as Margo convincing everyone her cooking is extravagant because her chicken is Russian (chicken Kiev) and her dessert is German from the Black Forest (that fabulous classic of Black Forest Gateau cake). There were continuing gags such as Sir never remembering Tom’s name (Tom Who?) and stand out scenes such as the dancing and the scene where they all get stoned on spiked cake (seeing Margo stoned is something to behold and a treat we were never able to witness in the television show). There is humour to be found in the tiniest of details such as “Margo corner” and of course the jokes and one liners we all know and love from the television show too. As these were being set up, those familiar with the show would start laughing way before the cast had got to the punch line or joke because they knew what was coming, such as Margo discovering Tom had clothed his scarecrow in her dress!
I have to say, what was massively impressive was that the cast did not seem to use microphones at all and yet every word, line, joke and forgotten line could be heard with clarity and volume. Now that takes a truly special actor and all six were just brilliant. As the show finished, the theme tune played the audience out and I immediately heard whispers from the row behind me, “Can you really use goats milk to make butter? I’d like to try that!” and yes! Apparently, you can! Lord G of Oogle says “It’s every bit as good as the same spread made from cow's milk”. So there you go! An evening of love, laughter and life lessons. What else can we ask for after such a rubbish 18 months? With live theatre back such as this, it really is The Good Life.
WE SCORE THE GOOD LIFE – 8/10