REVIEW: The Good Life at the Everyman, Cheltenham, October 20-23

The cast of The Good Life

The cast of The Good Life - Credit: Dan Tsantilis

A trip to the theatre for an evening out brought memories flooding back to Katie Jarvis. Mainly distressing ones

So I’m going to give you two vignettes from my life. Not – believe me – because I think my life is in any way interesting. But more because the bar is set pretty close to ground-level in this review. 

Vignette 1: I’m on a walking holiday in France. (Though I use the term ‘holiday’ world-breakingly loosely.) After a couple of days of this ‘holiday’ (see above), I got the drift. I’d wake up in the morning, glumly look out of my window, spot the highest peak in the far distance and think: I bet that’s where I’m heading today. (NB: it was flagged as a ‘moderate’ walk. I can only think ‘advanced’ came with Sherpa services.) 

On one particular day, every single outlet in the village where we were to buy lunch was closed. When I finally crawled into my hotel that evening – having survived on berries and rainwater – the restaurant (the only one in the locality) was also closed. ‘I haven’t eaten since breakfast,’ I wept to the receptionist. She replied, ‘Your room is first on the left down the corridor’. 

At the end of seven days, my face showed the kind of emotions previously seen in grainy media photographs when paratroopers storm buildings as part of an operation during which only the kidnappers suffer. 

Vignette 2: The air goes wavy, reader, and we find ourselves back in early 2003. I am protesting, on a bridge in Stroud, against the impending Iraq War. After waving my banners along with the rest, I pop (as do all good champagne socialists) into Waitrose. As I stand contemplating the artichoke hearts in olive oil, I hear a chap say to his wife, ‘Did you see those hippies on the bridge?’ 

Nigel Betts, Rufus Hound as Tom Good and Sally Tatum as Barbara Good in The Good Life

Nigel Betts, Rufus Hound as Tom Good and Sally Tatum as Barbara Good - Credit: Dan Tsantilis

The Good Life – the classic comedy live in stage. What not to like? I remember those episodes from back in the 70s, when the whole family sat round the TV because life, at that point, was rubbish. We’d ditched singing Come into the Garden, Maud round the piano and reading A Christmas Carol out loud, but were still awaiting Grand Theft Auto

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A hiatus into which Tom and Barbara turning their Surbiton house into an allotment – much to the amusing outrage of next-door’s Jerry and Margo – spread happiness like horse manure onto roses. (In 2004, it came 9th in Britain's Best Sitcom; Wikipedia.) 

I mean, look. It was genuinely amusing. 

Partly because, in the 70s, the idea of self-sufficiency carried the same kind of cachet as climate-change denial does in 2021. 

Hippies were tree-huggers, who wore baggy clothing (no belts) and felt going barefoot nevertheless precluded having to wash your feet. 

Sally Tatum as Barbara Good

Sally Tatum as Barbara Good - Credit: Dan Tsantilis

People often misuse the word nostalgia. It kind of really means never being able to return to some point in the past. As opposed to achieving it. 

It also means not sitting in front of four episodes of The Good Life back-to-back on someone’s not-quite-legit YouTube channel. 

With any luck, you’ve now lost interest in this review. 

If not, then here’s the premise of the stage play, The Good Life: 

Oh, wait! That’s the TV series. Oh, wait! It’s both. 

The Good Life

Rufus Hound as Tom Good, Dominic Rowan as Jerry Leadbetter, Preeya Kalidas as Margo Leadbetter and Sally Tatum as Barbara Good - Credit: Dan Tsantilis

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In short, The Good Life, stage play, stars Rufus Hound as Tom; Preeya Kalidas as Margo; Dominic Rowan as Jerry; and Sally Tatum as Barbara. The only differences I could discern from the TV series are that (spoiler alert):

a) they all accidentally get stoned on a home-made poppy-seed cake (but not as amusingly as, for example, feeding popping candy to your beloved pet (I’m not advocating this).) 

And b) being vaguely worried about Barbara not having children. 

Oh, and c) a very amusing mechanical goat. 

Preeya Kalidas as Margo Leadbetter

Preeya Kalidas as Margo Leadbetter - Credit: Dan Tsantilis

Look – I admit it. Some members of the audience, specifically the lady in front of me, were loving it. Laughing at every joke almost as if they remembered it. 

And, apparently, a bit more happened in the second half. By this point, I was hot-footing it home. (See holiday vignette.) 

I feel I’m being unduly harsh. And, for that, I apologise. 

I love the Everyman. I love theatre. I’d beg you to support it. And there’s loads on that’s wonderful. Buy, buy, buy. 

But, in this instance? I honestly think if you remember The Good Life with nostalgia from the 70s, you’d think: Why bother reviving it? 

And if you don’t, you’d think: Why bother reviving it? 

The Good Life – the classic comedy live on stage: Everyman, Cheltenham, October 20-23 
The Everyman Theatre is at Regent Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1HQ, box office 01242 572573;