The Good Life, starring Rufus Hound and Sally Tatum, is a show that recreates the look of the original but has nothing of its extraordinary charm
The Good Life
Everyman, Cheltenham Touring until Dec 4, 2hrs 10mins
‘Sherry, Jerry!’ Margo demands of her hen-pecked husband in their Surbiton home. Also present and correct are Tom and Barbara Good, their neighbours, who have chucked in the rat race and are living the self-sufficiency dream next door with their animatronic goat that poops green olives on stage!
But aside from the goat’s performance, an air of disappointment hangs heavily over this stage version of the legendary series (it kicked off in 1975). It is still set in the mid-1970s: prawn cocktails and chicken Kiev are on Margo’s menu.
The wallpaper is floral and the period wardrobe is a fiesta of polyester. But it feels oddly pointless, with no attempt to repurpose the original or exploit its dawning eco-awareness.
Rufus Hound and Sally Tatum (both above with Dominic Rowan and Preeya Kalidas) have the deeply unenviable job of recreating the Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal roles
We are simply plonked into a rambling two-hour episode, written by Jeremy Sams who also directs. It’s based loosely on an amalgam of John Esmonde and Bob Larbey’s TV scripts, with Tom going through a midlife crisis at 40, quitting his job making plastic toys for cereal packets and becoming a smallholder.
Rufus Hound and Sally Tatum have the deeply unenviable job of recreating the Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal roles. They ramp up the mutual lust and at one point – shock alert! – roll a spliff.
But they get little comic mileage out of their marriage.
Dominic Rowan’s suave executive Jerry slyly evokes smoothie chops actor Peter Bowles in his prime. (Indeed Bowles turned down the part of Jerry, which went to Paul Eddington.)
But I found Margo (Preeya Kalidas) in this to be too nasty. Penelope Keith’s incarnation was humourless and snobbish yet Margo’s sheer goodness of heart always radiated the series.
The storylines here involve a drunken, farcical dinner party; there’s a prolonged sequence about reviving a piglet, involving a burly policeman and a milkwoman, providing supporting roles for Nigel Betts and Tessa Churchard.
And finally there’s a post-mortem of Margo’s disastrous am-dram stint in The Sound Of Music that belongs in The Archers. It’s a show that recreates the look of the original but nothing of its extraordinary charm.