Rising Damp on Stage – The Stage Show That Never Was
Back in the early 1980s, shortly before Leonard Rossiter died, Ray Cooney had the idea of bringing Rising Damp to the stage. He invited Eric Chappell to see one of his shows in the West End, likely ‘Run for your Wife’, which premiered in March 1983, starring Richard Briers, Bernard Cribbins and Carol Hawkins.
Discussions on the Rising Damp stage show were already well underway and, as understood by Eric, Leonard Rossiter and Frances de la Tour were to reprise their roles from the sitcom.
When Eric arrived to see Ray’s show, Leonard and James Bolam (The Likely Lads) were also there, leading Eric to believe that there may have been a new or existing role for James to play in the new adaptation.
Once all the parties involved were on-board, Eric would revise the Banana Box, incorporate storylines from the television sitcom, along with new material to bring the show back to a theatrical audience.
In 1984, Leonard went on to play Inspector Truscott in Joe Orton’s Loot but sadly, he died during the production. With the passing of Leonard, the stage show had lost its irreplaceable lead, and the show ended up shelved until the early 2000s. It was close to becoming a West End hit though, and with Ray Cooney steering the ship, I’m sure Eric’s new play would have lent itself perfectly to Ray’s farcical direction.
It wasn’t until 2003 that Eric Chappell decided to revisit The Banana Box and produce a new stage play as Rising Damp.