Duty Free

 

Highlights

  • British comedy TV show written by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr 
  • Yorkshire TV show which ran from 19841986
  • Starring Keith Barron and Gwen Taylor
  • Set in Span but recorded in Leeds
  • Based on a TV play by Eric Chappell titled ‘We’re Strangers Here

 

Duty Free is about two British couples, David and Amy Pearce and Robert and Linda Cochran, who meet while holidaying at the same Spanish hotel in Marbella and the interruptive affair conducted by David Pearce and Linda Cochran during their break. Another recurring character is the hotel waiter Carlos.

Although set in Spain, the show was recorded entirely in the Leeds Studios – only for the concluding Christmas special was the budget found to film some scenes in Spain at the Don Carlos Hotel and Spa.

Like many British sitcoms, there was a class-related tension between the two; with the Pearces working-class socialists from Northampton, and the Cochrans a more affluent, middle-class Conservative couple from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. The character of David Pearce, much to his wife’s chagrin, became uncomfortable with his own status and politics after meeting the Cochrans and tried to change his outlook.

The series was based on a one-off TV play by Chappell, We’re Strangers Here, first performed on TV with Geraldine McEwan and Ian Hendry as a two-hander and subsequently on stage as a four-hander at the Theatre Royal, Windsor.

Cast

  • Keith Barron – David Pearce
  • Gwen Taylor – Amy Pearce
  • Joanna Van Gyseghem – Linda Cochran
  • Neil Stacy – Robert Cochran
  • Carlos Douglas – Carlos the Waiter
  • Bunny May – Hotel manager (series 1)
  • George Camiller – Hotel manager (series 2 and 3)
  • Ray Mort – George (series 1 and 2)
  • Hugo Bower – Zimmerman (series 1)
  • Joseph Fazal – Spanish Policeman (series 2)

The actor Frazer Hines, known for his former role in Emmerdale Farm, and television presenter Judith Chalmers made guest appearances in the series, playing themselves. The former was a hotel guest who tried to seduce Amy Pearce; the latter was filming an episode of Wish You Were Here…? from the hotel and interviewed the two couples.

It set viewing records for a sitcom at the time, regularly topping the UK TV ratings, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Comedy Series in 1986 alongside Only Fools and HorsesYes, Prime Minister‘Allo ‘Allo!Ever Decreasing Circles, and lost out to the winner, Just Good Friends.

In May 2015, both Gwen Taylor and Keith Barron played a couple again in an episode of the daytime soap opera Doctors.

Last of the Duty Free by Eric Chappell and Jean Warr is a theatrical sequel to the TV series. The scene is many years later in which, as before, deceptions, misunderstandings and preposterous situations abound. Gwen Taylor, Keith Baron and Neil Stacey returned to their previous roles when the play opened at The Royal Theatre, Windsor in April 2014.

On tour, the play’s title was shortened to Duty Free.

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