STEPTOE and Son was so massively popular on TV that Harold Wilson pleaded with the BBC not to broadcast it on the night of the 1964 general election, for fear it would harm the turnout. So it was a shame that this very enjoyable stage version did not play to the full auditorium it deserved.

Christmas is always the same at Oil Drum Lane in Shepherd’s Bush. Harold Steptoe dreams of getting away from the family rag-and-bone business to a world of ski resorts and sophisticated parties. But whatever plans he makes, he knows he will end up at home with his dad and the horse.

Hambledon Productions has put together Steptoe’s 1973 and 1974 Christmas specials, added parts from various other episodes and thrown in a long-lost segment written for Christmas Night With the Stars, to form a very neat two-act play.

John Hewer adapted Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s TV scripts and stars as Harold. His performance is closely modelled on that of Harry H Corbett in the series, which is just as well, since it is very hard to imagine the part played any differently. Jeremy Smith is memorably grubby as Albert, while Poppy Adamson impresses as Marcia, an amalgam of all the women Harold somehow persuaded to go back to the scrapyard.

Galton and Simpson’s Steptoe scripts are some of the best writing ever to have blessed the small screen. One minute, Harold is sarcastically comparing his dad’s tatty Christmas decorations to the splendours of Versailles during the reign of the Sun King; the next, the subject is the festive toilet paper in the outdoor ‘khazi’. The adaptation did the words justice and was particularly good in the second act, based on the 1974 Christmas episode which delivered a surprise ending as Steptoe and Son left the small screen for the last time.

This was a terrifically enjoyable evening that would have been better still if it had enjoyed the extra energy created by a packed house.