Another round on stage with the Early Doors lads

Phil Mealey and Craig Cash in Early Doors Live
Phil Mealey and Craig Cash in Early Doors Live

Craig Cash is nervous. The co-creator of Early Doors with his lifelong friend Phil Mealey admits to being apprehensive about touring for the first time with a live stage version of the hugely-loved comedy about the regulars who congregate in the same Stockport pub every night.

Craig, who has also helped to create such popular sitcoms as The Royle Family and The Mrs Merton Show, confesses: “I’ve never done theatre before.

“I’ve only performed live once, when I did a five-minute Royle Family charity sketch with Sue Johnston at the Old Vic. So the live tour of Early Doors is a whole new experience for me.”

Phil has just as many butterflies.“The last time I was on stage was when I played the Third Shepherd in the Nativity Play! Craig and I have never performed to an audience before. It will be daunting.

“If a bit we think is funny doesn’t get a laugh, we’ll think, ‘What have we done wrong?’ So Craig and I are relying on the cast to drag us through it.”

Craig added:  “A while ago when we first started writing Early Doors Live, I was talking about it to Peter Kay, I was a little apprehensive not having done live stuff before. He was always very supportive of the TV show, back when we did it, sending lovely messages when it aired.

“He actually came in when we were first putting the set up. We were writing graffiti on the toilet walls and he wrote in the gents above the urinals – ‘Susan, if you are reading this - it’s over.’ It’s still there.

“He was really pleased to hear we were doing the live show. I said, ‘But I’m really nervous about going on stage.’ ‘You’ll love it,’ he replied, ‘Once you walk out there and feel the love from the audience, you won’t want to do anything else’. I hope he’s right!

“He should know - I’m sure he will be.”

The show paints a laugh-out-loud-funny, and yet often affecting picture of the misfits who gather in The Grapes with very predictable regularity. You can set your watch by the time they pitch up every evening.

In the live show, the action revolves round Ken (played by the marvellous John Henshaw), the long-suffering and warm-hearted landlord who has long carried a torch for his barmaid, Tanya (Susan Cookson).

Ken’s regulars include: the sardonic Joe (Craig) and his philandering friend Duffy (Phil), the miserable Old Tommy (Nick Birkinshaw), who suffers from a bad case of IBS (Irritable Bugger’s Syndrome, Tanya’s friend Debbie (Lisa Millett), who leaves her kids in the car outside while she pops in for a quick half of cider, and the pub’s cleaner, Winnie (Joan Kempson).

They are joined by Phil (James Quinn) and Nige (Peter Wight), a couple of extremely lazy coppers who always have some dubious scam on the go. As they settle in for the first of a succession of free pints at The Grapes, they tut that “Crime won’t crack itself.”

Craig outlines the plot: “It’s as if it’s a continuation of the TV series. All the regulars are still in The Grapes and their lives are going on.

“There are a few surprises, but obviously I can’t tell you about them or they wouldn’t be surprises any more!

“All I can tell you is that it centres on a romance and a bromance. Ultimately, as Cilla would have put it, it’s going to be a lorra, lorra laughs.”

Early Doors Live is at the FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield on September 30. Tickets: www.flydsaarena.co.uk