One for the Birds

Back in the old routine: Dorien (Lesley Joseph), Sharon (Pauline Quirke) and Tracey (Linda Robson)

Birds of a Feather

The New Alexandra Theatre

***

IT'S been 13 years since one of the most successful UK sit coms, Birds of a Feather, left our screens. The series ran for 10 years and chalked up 101 episodes' with viewing numbers in the millions, turning actresses Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph into national stars.

Its success was surprising as it was centered solely on the dubious lives of two Cockney female sisters, Sharon and Tracey, and their glamorous ` man eating ‘ neigbour, Dorien.  Adding to that formula was a fair dose of laddish and innuendos humour with a solid undercurrent of political incorrectness.

Resurrecting the 90's TV format and transferring it to the stage is something of a risky move and there are clearly issues in the writing here in the attempt to time warp the scenario into 2012.

Instead of tampering with it they have chosen to just keep it the same and that felt odd as for most of the time you feel like part of an invited TV audience rather than in a theatre.

This is a shame as in truth the only reason this audience are here is for the comedic ability of this highly talented trio but only a couple of times did you feel they were actually here in the flesh with you rather than on the box.

Considering the original characters, the plot seems a little far-fetched. Dorien, once so superficial and sex mad is still her glamorous self, but now running an old people's home and Tracey has developed agoraphobia. Ok it is all a possibility but at one point, while getting drunk, the pair of them cross analyze their personality conditions while each explaining away their deeper physcological issues.   

SARCASTIC DIGS

Thankfully the self-deprecating humour and sarcastic digs that made the chemistry work originally are still there so in effect  the credibility of the plot and action did not matter but it still felt of its time and very  retro.

There was a glimpse of the missed potential that could have made this a very funny stage production when at one moment Linda Robson corpsed on one of her lines and appeared to be genuinely laughing out of character. Whether the moment was scripted or unintentional it truly gave us what we were there to see as the characters of Sharon, Tracey, and Dorien are so fused with the actors that for a second it all seemed real.

The trio clearly has the experience and talent to deliver more if it was there but again some of the production ideas seemed thin.  There were a couple of  projected videos to establish scene changes that were just time fillers and one video cue came woefully late leaving us all sitting in the dark for what seemed like an age with nothing happening.

After all of these years they have each developed great depth and ability as performers and their comic timing as a team remains intact. For that fact I would love to see them in something else rather than just this as for me it lacked anything new.

Whilst the TV series had you feeling you were there in the lounge and living right there with them, this stage version has you feeling like you are outside and peering in through the windows.

Having said that I loved the original TV programmes and if you are an ardent fan then you will definitely enjoy this.

Jeff Grant

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