It is a stage revival of The Good Life which perhaps should be renamed The High Life.
The new production has updated the Seventies television series by having Tom and Barbara Good smoke cannabis.
The stage version finds the eco-friendly couple, played by Rufus Hound and Sally Tatum, getting high at home before taking some marijuana-infused bread to a dinner party hosted by their neighbours, Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, played by Preeya Kalidas and Dominic Rowan.
It is not something that the characters in the original show, played by Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal, ever contemplated.
In the play, Tom and Barbara turn to drinking pea pod wine to cope with the stress of their new life, and resolve to grow pot in the potting shed.
Their “dealer” is a local pig farmer who turns up and hands them two ready-made cannabis joints, which he nicknames Surbiton Specials.
Preeya Kalidas and Dominic Rowan play Margo and Jerry Leadbetter
Credit: Dan Tsantilis
Kalidas said the stage show offered something new and would appeal to audiences too young to have seen the BBC sitcom.
“We aren’t just doing impressions of the original characters. We are taking them on a new journey which hopefully will be enjoyable for the audience, whether or not they are already fans,” she told The Stage.
She added that the character of Margo, memorably played on screen by Penelope Keith, “reminds me of some of my Indian aunties”.
Teaching modern Britain a lesson
Hound said the play could teach modern Britain a valuable lesson about getting on with people regardless of ideological and political differences.
“At the moment, we are more than aware of our differences. Every front page, every time we open our phones, we’re aware of how different we are from people,” he said.
“And yet The Good Life, deep down and underpinning it all, is this idea that even though they’re different, there’s something about how similar they are that means they are never going to fall out.
“They start from the point of view ‘Well, we’re neighbours, we can’t fall out’. Whereas, in 2021, the point of view is a bit more ‘You’re my enemy, so you stay over there’.”
The much-loved cast of the original BBC sitcom, left to right: Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith
Hound suggested that there would be plenty of people out there who identified with Tom and Barbara’s desire to leave the rat race.
“What is it about this nearly 50-year-old story that still resonates with people?” he told the BBC. The original show ran from 1975 to 1978.
“Ultimately, it’s a man who gets to middle age and turns to his wife and says, ‘What is this all for? We’re doing work we don’t like to buy things we don’t need’.
“And it just so happens that his wife feels exactly the same. And from there, they realise if they live their own lives and go for self-sustaining, maybe they can cast off the shackles of modern life and go their own way.”
The TV sitcom was written by John Esmonds and Bob Larbey, who previously had a hit with Please Sir! The idea was inspired by Larbey turning 40 and joking about his midlife crisis.
It was said to have started a craze for allotments. It also turned Kendal into a pin-up, and the actress summed up Barbara’s appeal as “nice, a bit naughty and 100 per cent wholesome”.
The Good Life is at the Theatre Royal Bath until October 16, then tours nationwide. Tickets available at thegoodlifeonstage.com