Modern society is fascinated with the idea of sustainable, eco-friendly living – rightly so, when the threat of mother nature and climate change are knocking on your door. So, its oddly fitting that the 70’s British sitcom, The Good Life, should focus on ecological living.
The TV show was enjoyed by millions when it premiered way back when, in 1975. The show was adapted by Jeremy Sams and it now hits stages for the first time, before heading to the West End. It features Tom and Barbara, as we join them on Tom’s 40th Birthday. In the midst of what Barbara describes as a midlife crisis, Tom quits his job as a designer of plastic toys for cereal boxes and the couple decide to commit to a new lifestyle, in a hope to make for a more interesting life. They set off on their quest to become eco-warriors, growing their own produce, raising livestock and generating their own electricity.
Audiences are transported back to the 70’s, as the fully dressed kitchen of Tom and Barbara acts as a hub of activity. Comedy and West End star, Rufus Hound is Tom, and Sally Tatum is Barbara: the pair work well together and provide natural chemistry and of course the humour is on point. With well timed, witty lines, the production feels almost modern in the way it approaches comedy.
Rufus Hound, the master of improvisation – as any comedian should be – had the audience titillated when he found himself struggling to say a sentence; after repeating the line to no avail the actor used his natural wit to fool his way out of the blunder, which went down a treat for everyone watching.
The nosey neighbours Margot and Jerry are played by television and film star Preeya Kalidas and Dominic Rowan. The posh pair created the perfect balance of characters. Somewhat relatable even this far on since their creation, the foursome present contrasting neighbours, who together should not work, but in this case provide great relatable characters.
Thrown into the mix are Nigel Betts and Tessa Churchard, who play a host of different characters that come and go within the plot. It became a laughable moment each time Betts entered as a new character. This multi-rolling was a great addition to the production and only added to the abundant humorous moments.
I was pleasantly surprised when the set began to turn to reveal a secondary set, presenting the staging of Margot and Jerry’s living room. Designed by Michael Taylor, the set turns in three separate areas, allowing for a change of atmosphere, which was needed after a rather slow start. The staging is used playfully, particularly during a dinner party scene as the turning stage continues to spin to reveal the shenanigans making play in both homes simultaneously. An audience favourite was the appearance of Geraldine the Goat… Yes, a goat.
There is not one weak link in the cast: each one presents well-rounded, interesting characters naturally – even those playing more than one role. Every inch of the production is believable, and the humour seems to exude easily from both the writing and the acting.
The chaos and the humour really is what makes the piece shine: from a crazy dinner party fuelled by pot-filled cake, to a terrorising goat and even a jumble to revive a dying piglet. There’s no doubt this fast-paced production provides a funny night out.
Despite this, there is a niche feel to the production. Perhaps the naturalistic style and now stereotypical 70s elements still leave the piece feeling slightly outdated. But whether you’re familiar with the original sitcom or not, there sure is an enjoyability to the production, with superb class acting and comedy.
You can still catch The Good Life at The Lowry until Saturday 30th October tickets available from: https://thelowry.com/whats-on/the-good-life/
Reviewer: Alison Ruck
Reviewed: 26th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★