THE love-hate relationship between Albert and Harold Steptoe had millions glued to their TV sets during the 1960s and ‘70s.

Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s bittersweet comedy series about the father-and-son rag and bone men ran for 57 episodes and earned its stars, Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell, a place in the nation’s hearts, somewhere between Morecambe & Wise and French & Saunders.

Now, fresh from the success of their dreamlike take on the fairytale, The Wild Bride, acclaimed theatre group Kneehigh, have given Steptoe and Son their unique stamp.

While staying true to the original scripts, they have introduced their trademark blend of music and dance and shifted the Cockney duo a few hundred miles west from their old home in Shepherd’s Bush to Kneehigh’s backyard in Cornwall.

Dean Nolan plays Harold Steptoe, whose pie-in-the-sky aspirations are mercilessly trampled upon by his cynical father Albert, who can’t bear the thought of losing him.

“It’s such a privilege to play a role like this because the writing’s quite something and Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell were amazing actors,” he says.

“We’re not trying to impersonate. I think our show is a little darker than the TV series and looks more closely at their relationship and how cruel they could be to each other. I recall seeing repeats as a youngster but I’ve not watched them while preparing for this show. But I’m excited about sitting down at the end of the tour and watching the box set.”

One big difference is Kirsty Woodward as the missing woman in the pair’s lives. As well as playing a number of women from the original scripts, she hovers in the background as the ghost of Albert’s wife.

“She’s the woman they’re both lacking in their lives and I think her presence gives the show a certain edge,” says Nolan.

“Maybe that’s what they’re missing – a woman who can sort them out.”

Nolan grew up in Cornwall and is finally realising his dream of working for his local theatre group Kneehigh, whose work has delighted audiences across the globe.

He has always admired the movie-like feeling they bring to their productions and their boldness in trying new things, like giving dyed-in-the-wool Cockneys Albert and Harold Cornish accents.

“We’ve had some proper die-hard fans of the TV show and when we talked to them afterwards they said it took seven or eight minutes for them to adjust but after that they were really able to embrace it,” he says.

“The Cockney accent sits well with a lot of the twangs and the lazy accent of the Cornish tongue.”

The accents may have changed but the famous theme tune makes a cheeky appearance in the soundtrack by Simon Baker, who was the sound designer on Matilda The Musical.

Nolan thinks Galton and Simpson paved the way for sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses, and The Royle Family, in which everyday family struggles are elevated to high drama. So it meant a lot when the writers, who are due to watch the stage version for the third time in Hammersmith, gave the show their seal of approval.

As for Nolan’s family, the roles are reversed from those in Steptoe and Son. He says his father is the dreamer and describes himself as a driven pragmatist.

“My dad’s a proper Cockney and he’s always been a bit of a wheeler-dealer,” he says. “He’s a painter-decorator and always picking up things he thinks could be treasures but turn out to be worth a few quid, so I suppose there’s a little of Harold in him.”

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

Anyone living or working in Hammersmith and Fulham can claim two free tickets to see the show on Tuesday, March 19, at 7.30pm, subject to availability. Turn up at the ticket office today (Friday) or tomorrow with proof of your home or work address.