The Good Life proves very good indeed on the Chichester stage

The Good Life, Chichester Festival Theatre, until December 4.

The Good Life
The Good Life

The thought of The Good Life on stage is a curious one.

You start off thinking how strange it is that no one has ever done it before; you end up wondering why on earth should anyone want to.

After all, Tom, Barbara, Margo and Jerry are so entrenched in our minds as the actors who originally played them that surely a new version – and on stage – has to be on a hiding to nothing.

But that’s the lovely surprise about Jeremy Sams’ new version. It works – and it works beautifully, with Rufus Hound, Sally Tatum, Preeya Kalidas and Dominic Rowan respectively in those roles.

Each of them captures the essence of the original – and then captures something more that makes revisiting it now definitely worthwhile.

It’s an adaptation that rightly takes plenty of liberties but equally shows all the respect you could possibly want it to, and the end result is the perfect mix: thoroughly undemanding and thoroughly enjoyable.

There are times when you want to be stretched, challenged and educated in the theatre; there are times it’s fine to go for the sheer enjoyment, pure and simple – and this is one of them.

In all the permutations, the fab four play off each other beautifully, utterly different outlooks but plenty of mutual attraction between the neighbours, the Goods the suburban eco-warriors, the Leadbetters the suburban social climbers.

The first half ends with a boozy, doped-up party; the second half makes you care about a fake piglet. It’s involving, it’s poignant, it brings back memories and it creates new ones, very nicely played all round – with excellent support from cast members five and six Nigel Betts and Tessa Churchard multi-roling to hilarious effect. Wonderful set too.

I am ashamed to admit I thought I was going to hate this; how lovely to be so wrong.

Of course, it can’t possibly touch the heights of the original, but if it makes us all want to watch it again, then that’s a result too.

And excellent from the theatre tonight: a clear and sensitively worded plea for us all to keep our masks on.

Pompey’s panto crowd on Sunday was largely unmasked; ditto The Sweet in Southampton last Friday. It really, really isn’t a lot to ask. Well done, the CFT.