Nichola McAuliffe and Jeffrey Holland in WAITING FOR GOD. Photo: Geraint Lewis

Jeffrey Holland talks to Frankly My Dear UK about his role in the new comedy play

When WAITING FOR GOD first aired on BBC One in the early 1990s, it became an instant hit with fans, running for a total of five series between 1990 and 1994. More than 20 years later, the hit sitcom has been adapted for the stage with an all-new script penned by the original creator Michael Aitkens.

Set at the fictional Bayview Retirement Home near Bournemouth, WAITING FOR GOD follows two spirited residents, Tom and Diana, as they spend their time running rings around the home’s oppressive management and their own families. Reimagined for 2017, the stage version brings to life the characters from the original series, with Olivier-Award winner Nichola McAuliffe starring alongside comedy legend Jeffrey Holland in the lead roles.

Ahead of its final run at Salford’s The Lowry next month, Jeffrey Holland talks to Frankly My Dear UK about his role in the new comedy play, which he joined back in April when Roy Hudd, who was originally cast as Tom Ballad, was forced to pull out from the production due to ill health.

“The script fell into my lap” explains Holland, in an exclusive interview with Donna Kelly from Frankly My Dear UK.

“They asked me to step in and I was absolutely delighted because I’ve worked with Nichola [McAuliffe] before and we’ve been friends for many years. It was lovely to get the opportunity to tackle as great a script as this, with people who you respect, so that’s been a double advantage.”

Holland plays resident Tom Ballard who conspires with battle-axe extraordinaire Diana Trent to give the conniving retirement home manager his comeuppance.

“He’s [Tom Balland] a retired accountant and he’s got a very sharp sense of humour” explains Holland.

“She [Diana] describes him as an “intellectual anarchist” which is a very interesting way of putting it. He doesn’t suffer fools at all, any more than she [Diana] does, and that’s why they get on so well together. They break the rules because they are there to be broken. They set about growing old disgracefully which is really what the play is all about.”

Unlike the TV original series which ran from one episode to another without a definite ending, the stage version of WAITING FOR GOD has been turned into a two-act play with a beginning, a middle and an end. The script has also been revamped to appeal to a modern day audience.

“It’s been brought up to date from the series in the 90s” explains Holland.

“We mention Brexit and Diana sits down with a laptop which they didn’t have back in the early 90s.”

“It’s a good piece and people have been absolutely thrilled with it. It’s a good laugh. You have a bit of tears, a bit of poignancy as well. It’s got a good mix of all the emotions.”

Holland himself is no stranger to comedy. Best known for his breakthrough role as Spike in HI-DE-HI! in 1988, the English actor went on to perform as stuffy footman James Twelvetrees in the popular sitcom YOU RANG, M’LORD?. Alongside his role in WAITING FOR GOD, Holland has also been busy touring the country with his one-man show …AND THIS IS MY FRIEND MR LAUREL, written with Gail Louw.

“I’ve had two sell out seasons at Edinburgh with it and it was a big success for me” says Holland.

“I’m doing another performance on Sunday week, I’m fitting it in between the two final dates. It’s been very well received and people have been very kind. Everywhere I go it reaches peoples interest because the comedy of Laurel and Hardy is still studied today. I will continue with that as long as people still want it and as long as I can still stand up and do it.”

At the end of the WAITING FOR GOD 12 week tour, Holland will be jumping straight into another stage production.

“I’m doing another tour, starting at the end of July until December. I’m touring a production of BRASSED OFF. It’s been adapted for the stage from the original film screenplay and I’ll be playing the conductor of the brass band and I can’t wait to get stuck into that.”

WAITING FOR GOD runs at The Lowry from 3 – 8 July 2017.