THE GOOD LIFE, Theater Royal Bath
Let’s go back to the 1970s – the decade that saw strikes, blackouts, an energy crisis, a three-day week, a financial crash, nearly 30% inflation and three million families living in poverty. ?
This certainly seems to be the case with our current fuel and toy shortages, skyrocketing energy prices, lack of truck drivers and other workers, the catastrophic National Health Service, anticipated rate hikes. inflation and widening disparities between rich and poor.
Plus, thanks to the pandemic, many of us now want to grow our own food, live simpler lives – and save the planet along the way. While the ’70s generation grew mung beans, made macrame hangers, and babysat chickens, the 2020s counterpart feeds the sourdough sourdough, applauds the’ cottage core ‘(celebration of purity from the outside ) on TikTok and save chickens – just like Harry and Megan.
So it couldn’t be more timely than the iconic British 70s TV sitcom, The good life – attracting 21 million viewers at its peak in 1977 – now hits theaters. Originally written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, and starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith, the stage version debuted at the Theater Royal Bath and then toured.
In this adaptation by Jeremy Sams, also director, Tom Good (warmly played by Rufus Hound), creator of plastic toys in cereal boxes, is going through a midlife crisis on the occasion of his 40 years. “We do things we don’t like to buy things we don’t need,” he laments. Tom quits his job and decides he should become fully self-sufficient with his wife Barbara (an attractive Sally Tatum) at their suburban home in Surbiton.
Much to the dismay of neighbors Jerry (played enthusiastically by Dominic Rowan) and Margo Leadbetter (played by Preeya Kalidas with superb comedic timing), the Goods plow their gardens to turn them into allotment gardens and set up chickens, pigs and a goat. named Geraldine (a thief puppet designed and built by Leigh Cranston, with help from puppet consultant Matthew Forbes).
Chaos ensues. Tom and Barbara shiver in their unheated property, miss the repetitive omelet and lettuce suppers, and bicker about which one of them allowed Geraldine to escape. Jerry tries to get Tom back to work and Margo upsets Barbara by offering him designer clothes.
Sams steadfastly sticks to his decision to cement the room in an age of Austin Allegro, garish wallpaper and wacky hairstyles. Perhaps it could have lent more contemporary references to the production, but as a period piece the piece is generally successful. However, a subplot that would not have been allowed in the TV scripts involves Harry the Pigman (brilliantly played by Oliver Hewett, who also stars as Sir, Policeman, and Dr Joe) adding marijuana to a cake topper. poppy seeds, leading to burlesque chaos at the Leadbetters’ house party and Sir Felicity’s wife (given humor and depth by Tessa Churchard) dancing vampishly with Tom.
The revolving setting from set and costume designer Michael Taylor cleverly captures the contrast between Goods’ country-style blue kitchen – with its inevitable Aga and pine units – and the more elegant pink floral wallpaper, the expensive dining table and shining money in the Leadbetter household. And he outfits the cast with ’70s panache: Margo’s wide-legged pantsuit and dangling earrings, Jerry’s green velvet jacket and bow tie, overalls and home-made green sweater from Margo. Barbara, and Tom’s jeans and work cap. It’s worth the price of admission alone to see Margo in her sultry white tennis jersey which she hopes will lure Coach Pablo to the club.
Sound designer Fergus O’Hare’s sitcom music, complemented by a pastiche by The good life theme tune, keeps the production bubbling. Mark Henderson’s lighting lends a sunny air, and movement director Jane McMurtrie skillfully choreographs the dance scene at the Leadbetter Party and other settings.
For all the crisp comedy lines, which got audiences laughing, the busty June jokes in the office seemed uncomfortably old-fashioned and muffled after #MeToo. And some references, such as TV chief Fanny Cradock and her husband Johnnie, might not be understood by a younger audience. But descriptions of period food and drink – Black Forest cake, Chicken Kiev, and RosÃ© Mateus, all of which are making a comeback these days – should hit the mark.
Audiences today will also be linked to the feeling of rejection of corporate drudgery in favor of fresh starts. A touching and tense scene in the second act, where the actors come together to revive a sick newborn piglet, reflects how neighbors helped each other during the lockdown. The program actually predicted the rise of the slow food movement and how people like Tom and Barbara wanted to do their own thing. Now, employees are working more from home and growing their own flourishing variety of The good life.
A psychedelic journey of the 70s well-being.
The Good Life at Theater Royal Bath until October 16, then continues its tour; thegoodlifeonstage.com
Photo credit: Dan Tsantilis