Review: Early Doors Live

Early Doors, the critically acclaimed but slightly overlooked BBC sitcom from the early Noughties, ran for just two series before being shelved.

It has, however since managed to gain a cult following of fans who loved the sentiment behind this simple Northern comedy.

The show has recently been brought to the stage by its talented ‘ex-Royle Family’ writers Craig Cash and Phil Mealey and on this showing received the huge success and plaudits it finally deserves.

Cash (Joe) and Mealey (Duffy) play two hapless friends in search of love and happiness in a show set entirely inside a Stockport pub called ‘The Grapes’ that features an array of comedic regulars that everyone can, in some way, relate to.

The story revolves around grumpy pub landlord, Ken, played brilliantly by John Henshall who is about to propose to his ‘true love’ Tanya (Susan Cookson) much to his Mum, Jean’s dismay. This has hilarious consequences as the locals all want to get involved and struggle to keep the news secret.

Ken’s mum, Jean (Judith Barker), is a fantastic Northern caricature of a woman who provides much opposition to the news that she may soon lose her home to her son’s lover. Barker plays the role with a great deal of strength and humour and precise comedy timing, which comes from her years of experience in the theatre.

Resident drinker and miserable old-sod Tommy, (Nick Birkinshaw), is the brunt of much abuse from Ken and the cast as he sits throughout most scenes of the action complaining about anything and everything but soon becomes involved in a great twist to the story which punctuates his many hilarious IBS driven trips to the pub toilet!

Other notable performances come from new actors to the roles of Freddie and June, Neil Hurst and Vicky Binns, who dovetail perfectly as the dim-witted couple with a penchant for temporary traffic lights.

A nod must go to Lisa Millet as Debbie who delivers every line with assurance and a cheeky glint in her eye.

Directed by Caroline Jay Ranger, the action moves seamlessly and efficiently through one set comedy piece after another and there is little time to catch your breath before the next laugh comes in.

The set, created by Liz Ashcroft, is simple but very effective and echoes the interior of the TV show pub but has the clever effect of switching the lights off in the bar each time the action moves up to Ken’s Mums living room.

There is also a nod to modern times as we see outside the front door of the pub, where every now and again Joe nips out with Duffy to smoke (or ‘vape’ in this case) and they put the world to rights with plenty of ad-libs and toilet humour!

It helps if you already know who’s who from the TV show although it is hardly essential as all the characters are larger than life and fit the brief in covering most aspects of an old town pub and its regulars.

The show is a huge success and quite rightly so, with Northern humour a plenty and moments of real emotion.

There are times when a few of the gags and choice language sail close to the wind and I’m guessing this was why the show now works better on stage than it did under the flagship of the BBC and long may that comedy ship sail.

Cash and Mealey have studied every aspect of each character within the pub setting perfectly and the finale which brings the whole cast into ‘panto-esque’ song had everyone leaving the theatre singing the shows’ theme, ‘One More Chance’ and smiling inanely from ear to ear.

The show runs at the Lowry Theatre until 3rd August and if you can get your hands on one of the few tickets still available before ‘Last Orders’ is called you will see a show that will leave you feeling the northern love for a long time after.

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Early Doors Live

Venue: The Lowry
Dates: Runs until 3rd August

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