CRAIG Cash is nervous. The co-creator of Early Doors with his lifelong friend Phil Mealey, he admits to being apprehensive about touring for the first time with a live stage version of the hugely loved comedy about the regulars who congregate in the same Stockport pub every night.

Craig, who has also helped to create such popular sitcoms as The Royle Family, The Mrs Merton Show and Mrs Merton and Malcolm, confesses: “I’ve never done theatre before. I’ve only performed live once, when I did a five-minute Royle Family charity sketch with Sue Johnston at the Old Vic. So the live tour of Early Doors is a whole new experience for me.”

Phil has just as many butterflies. “I’m nervous about it,” he acknowledges. “The last time I was on stage was when I played the Third Shepherd in the Nativity Play! Craig and I have never performed to an audience before. It will be daunting. If a bit we think is funny doesn’t get a laugh, we’ll think, ‘What have we done wrong?’ So Craig and I are relying on the cast to drag us through it.”

However, Craig reveals that in the run-up to the tour, they received encouragement from one of the nation’s favourite live performers.

“A while ago when we first started writing Early Doors Live, I was talking about it to Peter Kay, I was a little apprehensive not having done live stuff before. He was always very supportive of the TV show, back when we did it, sending lovely messages when it aired. He actually came in when we were first putting the set up. We were writing graffiti on the toilet walls and he wrote in the gents above the urinals – ‘Susan, if you are reading this - it’s over.’ It’s still there.

“He was really pleased to hear we were doing the live show. I said, ‘But I’m really nervous about going on stage’. ‘You’ll love it,’ he replied, ‘Once you walk out there and feel the love from the audience, you won’t want to do anything else.’ I hope he’s right! He should know - I’m sure he will be.”

We are all excited about the prospect of Early Doors’ sold out three week run at Salford’s Lowry Theatre, which will be followed by a 12-date UK tour, beginning in Glasgow on 24 September.

The show remains widely adored. It paints a laugh-out-loud-funny, and yet often affecting picture of the misfits who gather in The Grapes with very predictable regularity. You can set your watch by the time they pitch up every evening.

In the live show, the action revolves round Ken (played by John Henshaw), the long-suffering and warm-hearted landlord who has long carried a torch for his barmaid, Tanya (Susan Cookson).

Ken’s regulars include: the sardonic Joe (Craig) and his philandering friend Duffy (Phil); the miserable Old Tommy (Nick Birkinshaw), Tanya’s friend Debbie (Lisa Millett), who leaves her kids in the car outside while she pops in for a quick half of cider; and the pub’s cleaner, Winnie (Joan Kempson).

They are joined by Phil (James Quinn) and Nige (Peter Wight), a couple of extremely lazy coppers who always have some dubious scam on the go.

Craig outlines the plot of the live show: “It’s as if it’s a continuation of the TV series. All the regulars are still in The Grapes and their lives are going on.

“There are a few surprises, but obviously I can’t tell you about them or they wouldn’t be surprises anymore! All I can tell you is that it centres on a romance and a bromance. Ultimately, as Cilla would have put it, it’s going to be a lorra, lorra laughs.”

Phil continues that, “It shows there is still a great affection and a great demand for Early Doors. A lot of people feel it’s like their little secret. It’s like when you think, ‘I love the fact I know this band and no one else does.’ It seems as if the show has only got more popular as time has gone on.

“I have people coming up to me all the time talking about it. It’s one of those programmes people buy on DVD and watch again and again. They keep watching it because when they’re laughing at one thing, they miss something else. There seems to be a groundswell of love for it.”

Craig and Phil are clearly tapping into a reservoir of affection for Early Doors, which gains added comic intensity from the fact that it never leaves the pub premises. “It felt like a good time to do it,” Craig observes. “After years of wading through TV treacle, waiting around for months on end for answers, we thought we’d try something different.

“I’m really excited about it because we are finally meeting our audience. There will be a real connection and an immediate reaction to the live show, which you don’t get on TV. When the tour started to sell out so quickly, we thought, ‘Wow, they remember us!’ We’re all thrilled about doing this show.”

The pair, lifelong friends who first met as 15-year-old schoolboys, have certainly had a terrific time preparing for this show. They believe it will work really well in a live setting.

“The whole story is brand-new,” said Phil. “You see a lot of other TV comedy shows transfer to the stage and they just cobble together their best bits from the series. This is something completely new.”

Early Doors, the Lowry, Salford Quays, Wednesday, August 20 to Saturday, September 15; Blackpool Opera House, Wednesday, October 3 and Manchester Arena, Thursday, October 4.