Stage version of classic sitcom The Good Life plays Chichester

Come along expecting imitations and mimicry and you are going to be disappointed, says Preeya Kalidas.

Preeya Kalidas
Preeya Kalidas

That’s not what this is about.

The first-ever stage version of The Good Life, adapted and directed by Jeremy Sams, is at Chichester Festival Theatre from November 30– December 4

“We are not Richard Briers. We are not Felicity Kendal. We are not Penelope Keith,” Preeya says. “In fact the only thing I have got in common with Penelope Keith is the same initials! And the lovely thing is that we are getting people along who have never even seen the original TV series – and they are absolutely loving it.”

Rufus Hound plays Tom; Preeya is Margo; Dominic Rowan plays Jerry; and Sally Tatum plays Barbara.

“This was due to happen pre-pandemic,” Preeya says. “Jeremy had been working on the idea for a few years and they were due to put a production on last year, but due to the pandemic obviously that did not happen.”

Since then Preeya has joined the production: “And I do think that it works really well for now. The timing is really good. Everybody has been through such stress because of the pandemic. It has been so difficult for some people and now that theatres have started opening again people want to come out and see something that’s really uplifting, that’s really funny, that’s comforting and that just makes them laugh.”

The original series came out before Preeya was born: “But they did repeats on the BBC during that time when there were only four channels and British comedies were so great in the 80s. My brother was obsessed. He used to take control of the control and what he wanted to watch we watched. He was eight years older than me and so we did catch episodes of The Good Life and I loved it. It was just one of those shows that we just really enjoyed together as a family. My mum loved Margo and in fact Margo reminded me of some of my aunties who very much had her qualities, that knowing what she wants, that bossiness, that not having a sense of humour. I grew up knowing those kinds of women.”

And that’s the kind of thing Preeya brings to the show – rather than any thoughts of Penelope Keith in the role.

“We are four actors that bring our own characters to this. We bring different things to it but the essence is these people that the audiences will know, these types, these people from the middle-class community of Surbiton.”

And as we all know now, the Goods, suburban eco-warriors, were ahead of us all.

“Back in the 70s going against social norms and becoming an eco-warrior really was not something people did, but it certainly is now. But I think what the four characters represent is what does it mean to lead a good life. The fact is that it is different for everyone.

“Margo and Jerry have their qualms about Tom and Barbara doing what they are doing and how they lead their lives but it does not mean that they are wrong and it doesn’t mean that Margo and Jerry live their life in a bad way either.

“And what I think is so brilliant about these two couples is the way that they support each other. As much as Margo detests the idea of having pigs and cows and so on in their garden, when push comes to shove she’ll be right there in the thick of it helping Tom and Barbara if she needs to. Margo can be misunderstood but she does have a vulnerability and she does have a good heart. She doesn’t mean to be mean. She sometimes just doesn’t think before she speaks. She is someone that is battling the battlefield of Surbiton and for her it is really important to be part of that community, to have status but she will always help her neighbours.”

For Preeya, it is lovely to be back on the stage; “For everybody the pandemic was really difficult and I think we all had ways of managing to get by day by day. Initially it was like a bit of a holiday and everybody enjoyed being at home, but the longer it went on the more difficult it became. This is the first production for me since lockdown and I was really excited about it but I was also quite nervous about it about going back on stage and about remembering the lines. Will the cogs in my brain still work? But it has been great.

“And the long break has absolutely given us a real fire in our bellies, a great sense of gratitude just to be back and to be able to do what we love once again. None of us would ever have imagined that there would be a pandemic, so there is definitely greater appreciation, but that goes for the audience too. For me going to shows has become really exciting again…”