Rising Damp is the latest classic British sitcom to receive a screen-to-stage dust-off. A new theatrical production – penned by Eric Chappell, who wrote the TV original, and directed by Don Warrington, who co-starred in the screen version - opens at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre on 14 May 2013, before touring to Darlington, Salford, Malvern, Norwich, Sheffield, Woking, Bradford and Richmond, where it concludes on 20 July.
Billed as ITV’s “top comedy of all time”, Rising Damp originally ran from 1974 to 1978. It’s set in a run-down Victorian house and follows the antics of landlord Rupert Rigsby and the people who rent out his shabby bedsits. Rigsby’s unlucky tenants include university administrator Ruth Jones and students Alan and Philip, who are the focus of Rigsby’s many prejudices.
Born in Trinidad, Don Warrington, who directs, is still well remembered for playing the part of Philip Smith in Rising Damp alongside Leonard Rossiter as Rigsby, Richard Beckinsale as Alan and Frances de la Tour as Ruth. Warrington’s many other acting credits include: Death in Paradise, Red Dwarf, The Crouches and Casualty on screen; and Elmina’s Kitchen, Statement of Regret and, most recently, the tour of Driving Miss Daisy, on stage.
The new stage production brings the comedy full circle. Author Eric Chappell took up full time writing in 1973 after his debut stage play, The Banana Box, was produced at the Apollo Theatre, London. The play, which also starred Leonard Rossiter, inspired the TV series, which launched the next year and won the BAFTA for best situation comedy. In 1979 Eric's big screen version won the Evening Standard Film award for best comedy.
Other classic British sitcoms that have found success on stage in recent years include Yes, Prime Minister, which has just completed its third West End run, Dad’s Army, Faulty Towers, Steptoe and Son, Birds of a Feather and dinnerladies. The last two were also presented by Rising Damp’s producer, The Comedy Theatre Company.