Comedy Preview: Duty Free, King’s Theatre

Keith Barron, Carol Royleis, Neil Stacy and Gwen Taylor. Picture: contributed
Keith Barron, Carol Royleis, Neil Stacy and Gwen Taylor. Picture: contributed
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DUTY Free may only have run for 22 episodes, but the Yorkshire TV series remains one of the most popular sitcoms of the last 30 years. And now it’s back, complete with most of the original cast, in a new stage version, which tours to the King’s next week.

Written by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr, Duty Free aired from 1984 to 1986. It charted an ill-fated holiday romance. When working class David and Amy met upper-middle class Robert and Linda holidaying at the San Remo in Spain, their differences were immediately apparent. But opposites were proven to attract and a most unlikely romance developed.

In the stageplay, also by Chappell, David is, if anything, even more lustful, Amy more cynical, Robert more dangerous, and Linda more romantic than ever.

“I slipped back into the character of David straight away, it was bizarre really,” laughs Keith Barron, who admits he never imagined he’d be playing the role again, some 30 years after the last episode aired.

“I used to think, ‘Why don’t they do something with Duty Free?’, but never imagined that it would have this life, now,” he adds.

Barron is joined by the original Amy, Gwen Taylor, while Neil Stacy reprises the role of Robert.

Joanna Van Gyseghem, who played Linda, the final member of the original quartet, and the subject of David’s affections, is replaced by Carol Royleis, best known for her role as Jenny Russell in the BBC sitcom Life Without George.

“Carol is absolutely lovely and fufills the role totally. It’s the old eternal story really, the pursuit. There’s always a lunatic like me trying to get their leg over, and not succeeding, fortunately,” says Barron.

“It’s very interesting,” he continues, “we only ever did 21 shows and a Christmas special but people pick it up straight away. It just seems to fall into its own ‘30 years later’ level. We all love doing it.”

Amazingly, the production brings 79-year-old Barron to the Capital for the first time in his career.

“It’s going amazingly well, and do you know, I have never been to Edinburgh, so I’m looking forward to making my Edinburgh debut,” he smiles.

While favourite routines from the series pop up in the stage version, it is a new piece insists Barron.

“We’re all virtually the same... except we’re all 30 years older, but we’re not hobbling about, well, I’m certainly not hobbling about, I’m still trying to get the leg-over.

“In fact, David’s probably even worse now, it’s a last desperate measure.”

Duty Free, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £14-£27, 0131-529 6000