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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Early Doors Review | The Lowry | Manchester

The show hasn’t missed a beat since its 2004 finale, allowing The Grapes regulars to kick off a final round of the classic British comedy in phenomenal fashion.

The BBC 2 series based around the day to day running of The Grapes pub in Stockport brought lovable misfits onto the screen with alluring British (and Scottish) talent staggering through its bar doors. Its original cast, full of surprise treasures like Maxine Peake and James McAvoy helped layer the grounded sitcom with shared experiences that made the show so popular and powerful.

Over a decade on and only a handful of alterations have been made from its traditional line-up, with the live run including mainly familiar faces, such as The Royle Family’s Craig Cash as Joe and the “Crime can’t crack itself” coppers Phil (James Quinn) and Nige (Peter Wight). Its stage adaption co-written by program creator Craig Cash and show writer/star Philip Mealey (Duffy), carries a brand-new story to the Lowry theatre, picking up exactly where the show left off.

The show centres around pub landlord Ken (John Henshaw), his daughter Melanie (Laura Woodward), and his controlling mother (Judith Barker) who resides upstairs, gossiping on the happenings of the regulars’. Returning after its 2018 sell-out revival of the affectionately remembered 2003-4 series, the City Life award-winning comedy continues to carry a devoted fanbase. Celebrating the down-to-earth cast of locals, the live production has flipped out Eddie and Joan to serve newcomers Freddie and June in a warm nod to its original cast, but writers Cash and Mealey take comfort in the familiar, promising to give the audience what they wished for. With the exception of smoking outdoors and an adlibbed Boris Johnson reference, the story could have been cropped out of the original series. Following Ken’s relationship troubles with barmaid Tanya (Susan Cookson), alongside the usual dating and drinking shenanigans of its locals, the smooth transition from studio to stage results in the slow-moving comedy carrying a lively live laugh track.

The filming of the series was all based inside the bar, which lends itself to the stage with effortless style. Transforming the entire pub into a two-tiered set with hidden walls and minimal lighting effects, the production offers a sweet and nostalgic evening of easy-flowing laughs. Early Doors opens with its theme song Small World by Roddy Fame and ends with a sing-along remix by its entire cast that reminds audiences how thoughtful and rewarding the original series was. Full of one-liners, together with authentic and down-to-earth characters, Early Doors continues to bring old-school British comedy at its best. It’s no wonder the group called for a second round of its live production.

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