STEPTOE and Son's chirpy theme tune belies the casual cruelty in Galton and Simpson's much-loved 60s sitcom.

The biting sarcasm and outbreaks of violence between rag-and-bone men Albert and Harold, a rare portrayal of the darker side of family life for its time, gave the long-running comedy its teeth.

But while Kneehigh's stage adaptation, produced in conjunction with West Yorkshire Playhouse, briefly hints at the darkness beneath the duo's co-dependent relationship, it ultimately settles for something cosier and more nostalgic.

The four episodes selected by director Emma Rice complement each other nicely, building the atmosphere of claustrophobic closeness binding the scrap merchants together.

While the dialogue remains true to the original, it is interspersed with fantasy dance sequences, from a breezy seaside scene to a deadly knife fight.

These are set to an eclectic soundtrack, ranging from Cliff Richard's The Young Ones to the Rolling Stones' Paint it Black.

Kirsty Woodward, as the absent woman in their dyspeptic relationship, wanders through it all like a mischievous sprite. She directs the action by rearranging items from chipped crockery to album covers, representing a lifetime's emotional clutter, splayed across the stage.

Albert and Harold's scrap yard is transformed into a wheeled cart, like an oversized dressing-up box, sitting below a full moon hanging over a backdrop of dirty rags.

The mix of music and dance adds an aching sentimentality to proceedings, illuminating the surprising flashes of poetry in Galton and Simpson's best lines, though much of the humour feels dated.

It also gives Dean Nolan, as Harold Steptoe, the chance to show off his nifty moves.

The audience, clearly packed with fans of the original sitcom, does not take long to adapt to the scrap merchants' unfamiliar Cornish accents.

But the whole affair lacks either the TV show's grit or the enchantment of The Wild Bride, Kneehigh's previous show at the Lyric.

Steptoe and Son is at the Lyric Hammersmith until April 6. Tickets, priced £12.50-35, are available at or from the box office on 020 8741 6850.