THE Grapes will open its doors for one last round when Early Doors returns to The Lowry this summer.

Based on the cult BBC sit com which aired for two series ending in 2004, Early Doors the stage show proved to be one of the surprise hits of 2018.

Creators Craig Cash and Phil Mealey wrote a new script retaining all the characters from the TV show set in a mythical northern pub and the show sold out all over the country.

Now the pair are bringing the show back for a short run still shocked at the response they have had.

“We were thrilled to bits,” said Craig, who co-starred and co-wrote The Royle Family and also provides the voiceover for Gogglebox.

“We were so surprised by the affection that people had for a show which hadn’t been seen for 15 years. It was weird. It felt like there was an underground community just waiting for it.”

Both Craig and Phil, who star in the show, admitted they were nervous about taking Early Doors on the road last year but they have no such concerns this time round.

“When we started out last time we really weren’t sure how many tickets we’d sell or even if we’d sell any,” said Phil. “I’ve seen it before where a sit com has come back and it’s just not been the same. You don’t want people to feel ‘you should have stopped’.

“I think a lot of fans were nervous about it - I know we were - but the reception was fantastic.

“When we started writing the stage show, we didn’t tell anybody as we wanted to see if we could keep up the spirit of the original show and the standards we’d set.

“It was great to get such a reaction every night.”

Early Doors revolves around the Grapes, its landlord Ken and the motley crew of regulars for whom the pub is both a second home and provides an extended family.

“I think it has proved so successful because people can relate to it,” said Phil. “I think that’s the appeal. People hold Early Doors in such affection, It is character driven. Even if you don’t go into a pub every night you can still relate to the naïve couple who sit and talk gibberish or an old guy who is tight as a fish’s arse

“I also think it’s got that feelgood factor about it – I’m not sure if that’s trendy any more, maybe it should be. It tries to celebrate the good things about people rather than the cynical aspects of life.

“Sure all the characters take the mickey out of each other but at the end of the day they are looking out for each other.”

Early Doors will be back this summer for just a two week run.

“It’s been lovely but we don’t want to tour any more because we can’t be bothered with that stinky tour bus,” joked Craig. “For this show, this is going to be it – I’ve got a life to lead.

“The reason for coming back is to give everyone who hasn’t seen it and heard about it the chance to see it.”

Craig is hopeful that the entire cast from last year will returning for the show’s last hurrah including John Henshaw as landlord Ken.

“John’s the main man and he’s definitely coming back,” said Craig, “and virtually everyone else has already signed up too.

“We were lucky with this, the cast really get on – they don’t always – but with everything I’ve ever cast I’ve always thought ‘will I get on with this person?’ After all you are going to be spending a lot of time with them. You always try and find nice people you get on with it, and can have a good laugh and a good drink with – it’s life imitating art!”

As part of last year’s tour, demand was so great that the show even played in major arenas.

“From an ego point of view playing an arena is amazing,” said Phil. “When you walk out and there are thousands of people it’s a fabulous feeling. But the difficulty with arenas is that they are really set up for bands so when you’ve got dialogue and have to listen to what everyone’s saying it does echo around a bit.

“Although playing the arenas was a great experience, I much preferred to play the theatres. After all, the nature of the show is you want to feel as though you are sat in the pub.”

Both Craig and Phil are happy to bring the Early Doors adventure to an end because they want to move on to other things.

“We’d like to write something else,” said Craig. “That’s not to say we won’t come back to Early Doors at some point.”

Phil added: “We’ve got two or three ideas and they’ll probably be for the stage. If you write a pilot for a sitcom you’re never sure it’s going to get made and could sit in a drawer forever whereas with the stage it’s more immediate.”

n Early Doors, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Wednesday, July 24 to Saturday, August 3. Details from 0843 208 6005 or