THE Grapes is back in business after a break of 14 years.

Written by Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, Early Doors is essentially an extended live episode of the TV comedy which built up a devoted following during its two series on BBC2.

Set in a Stockport pub which is home to a collection of misfit characters, such is Early Doors’ cult appeal that the stage version initially planned for a week-long run at the Lowry had to be extended twice with all three weeks selling out almost immediately. On leaving the Lowry it will embark on a national tour including a number of arena dates.

Fans of the show will be delighted that all the regulars are back. Ken is still behind the bar at the Grapes and is plucking up the courage to ask part-time barmaid Tanya to marry him. Mum Joan is convinced she’ll be put into a home if this happens and sets out to thwart his plans, dodgy coppers Phil and Nige are still running their scams, Joe and Duffy are looking at internet dating and Tommy is as grumpy as ever.

If you weren’t a fan of the TV series, none of this will mean a thing but this is where the stage version of Early Doors really works. You don’t need to have seen a single episode to have a thoroughly enjoyable night out.

Cash and Mealey - friends since schooldays - clearly love their characters. In some ways their lives are sad. This motley crew of pub regulars are a family but although there are laughs aplenty you never feel you are laughing at the characters.

There are some great jokes in the script, some obvious jokes and one or two total surprises - without wishing to spoil it, let’s just say you won’t expect the ending.

There are many similarities to Cash’s major TV success The Royle Family. He clearly loves the little details of every day life and everyone will know someone like Freddie and June, Tommy or Debbie.

And that is what makes Early Doors rather special. Rather like pulling on an old sweater there is something comfortingly familiar about it which produces that warn glow.

Many of the original actors from the TV series have returned for the stage show. John Henshaw holds the show together as Ken, Craig Cash and Phil Mealey although older are definitely no wiser as Joe and Duffy and Nick Burkinshaw is a wonderful curmudgeon as Tommy.

Although just setting off on its run there were one or two glimpses of the cast starting to ad lib and break away from the script which you suspect will develop as the show goes on which shows how comfortable everyone is within the world of The Grapes.

It will be interesting to see how the intimate staging translates to the vast open spaces of arenas but the show is strong enough to cope with whatever surroundings it is presented with.

Early Doors is a charming, affectionate and even loving look at a slice of northern life. Oh, and it’s very, very funny.

A rapturous standing ovation greeted the finale - it’s fair to say the 14 year wait has been worth it.