Sitcom on stage will be a ‘jolly good laugh’

Jeffrey Holland and Nichola McAuliffe in Waiting For God
Jeffrey Holland and Nichola McAuliffe in Waiting For God

There’s plenty of sitcom fans who will fondly recall the series Waiting For God - where amiable new retirement home resident Tom Ballard ‘befriends’ battle-axe extraordinaire Diana Trent.

Now a new telling of their tale comes to the Grand Theatre.

It’s a jolly good laugh

The stage version of Waiting For God has been written by the show’s original creator Michael Aitkens, but is set in the present day.

“It’s a jolly good laugh,” Hi-De-Hi star Jeffrey Holland said of playing Tom in the new work. “It’s a character who’s been played before but I have had to make it my own.

“It’s set in modern times though, not in the 90s when it was on TV. Diana is using a laptop, which of course she wouldn’t have done in the 90s and we mention Brexit.

“It’s a brand new play, although based on the characters from TV. And it’s a proper story with two acts and a beginning, middle and end.

“Fans won’t be disappointed if they expect much of the same; it’s a wonderful script, is very funny and a lot of poignant moments as well.”

Jeffrey was a fairly last minute replacement for pantomime veteran Roy Hudd who had to pull out under medical advice, but with two weeks of rehearsals was no worry for Jeffrey.

“I’ve got an almost photographic memory, so it wasn’t too difficult to come in so late,” he said. “Working with Nichola McAuliffe, as Diana, she gives an amazing performance; it’s a tour de force.”

While Jeffrey happily recalls watching the show, Nichola has never seen it - and made a point not to refer to it after being cast in the play: “I don’t understand why anyone would do that,” she says.

Instead, Nichola’s drawn on her own experience of ‘kicking around’ with journalists, including her husband Don MacKay - an acclaimed Fleet Street reporter, to play the character of former war photographer Diana Trent.

“Diana strikes me as perfectly normal, although she drinks slightly less than the average [journalist I know],” she said. “Had we been starting from scratch, never having written for the character before, I would have wanted more of what I know from that world in the character. But Diana is a true reflection of people I knew from the old days.”

• Waiting For God, Grand Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday, June 20.