When the national tour of Love Letters was cancelled, leaving a week free in the Theatre Royal Bath’s early autumn schedule, the Union Theatre production of Salad Days was brought in to plug the gap, following the end of its London run the previous weekend.

Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’ Salad Days is a fun and wacky show that is full of optimism. Written in a month as a summer show for the Bristol Old Vic in 1954, Salad Days transferred to London where it ran for an incredible six years.

The enchanting, if rather silly story centres on Timothy and Jane. The two friends leave university, decide to get wed and then later they fall in love. The pair meet a tramp and are roped in to looking after his street piano. When this piano is played, it gives everyone around an unstoppable urge to dance!

The audience kind of get swept up in the fun of it all but Salad Days is very much of its time – it’s actually dated quite badly by now. To work, it really has to be played straight – the ridiculousness of it coming out of the lyrics and book in addition to the movement on stage. The Bath audience for today’s final Saturday matinee was largely of the older generation who chuckled heartily at a tale of a piano which makes people feel gay!

The Union Theatre production transfers onto a larger stage in Bath and at times it looks rather lost, having been originally directed for a more intimate space. The piano, bass and drums played on stage are located in the back right hand corner and rather expose the rest of the large playing area. The story-telling loses focus too, though attempts are made to utilize the new surroundings, including the Theatre Royal’s luxurious royal box.

Laurie Denman’s Timothy has an endearing wide-eyed smile throughout, while Lowri Hamen’s Jane is earnest in her quest for happiness. In the spirit of actor-musician shows, when Tom Self is required to play the Tramp on stage, other members of the company take turns to play.

Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’ hummable and memorable songs are always worth hearing –  ‘We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back’ has a timeless poignancy and ‘We’re Looking For A Piano’ has great wit. But it’s time for someone to update the material around them to give this salad a new lease of life.