Review – Birds of a Feather

Apr 10 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Feathers fly high

Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke and Lesley Joseph in the new stage show of Birds of a Feather.

Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke and Lesley Joseph in the new stage show of Birds of a Feather.

King’s Theatre
Tues 9 – Sat 13 April 2013
Review by Martin Gray

It’s 15 years since Birds of a Feather fluttered off TV screens at the end of a nine-year run as one of the BBC’s most beloved sitcoms. Now it’s back and on stage, with original stars Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke and Lesley Joseph.

But does it delight or disappoint? Has the old magic been recaptured – or has a break longer than the original run weakened the broth?

One good thing about the lengthy intermission is that there’s no way the show could pretend it’s still the 90s – the stars have all got older, and are far too savvy to pretend they’re still in their thirties and forties. This means the reborn Birds is set squarely in 2013, with jokes about David Cameron, the Cyprus economy and more. Which makes it feel as fresh as any BBC3 upstart (and a heck of a lot funnier).

It also allows the story line to focus on the relationship between Tracey (Robson) and youngest son Travis, born in the sitcom’s final episode and now a strapping 16. Travis is especially close to his mum because jailbird dad Darryl is dead, his remains in an urn in Tracey’s Chigwell sitting room. But the pampered teen doesn’t know the whole story …

The show’s other story line centres on Tracey and sister Sharon (Quirke) being reunited with old neighbour Dorien after receiving a mysterious note from a care home for the ‘comfortably well-off’. To say more about the narrative would spoil a number of reveals, so let’s just say this is a hugely enjoyable comedy, full of terrific lines, expertly batted around the stage; the chemistry between lifelong friends Quirke and Robson and relative latecomer Joseph dazzles.

Room for poignancy
Lesley Joseph, Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson  in the new stage show of Birds of a Feather.

Lesley Joseph, Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson.

While the two plots work splendidly as a comic engine, firing up plenty of zingers, the quieter moments when Sharon, Tracey and Dorien are swapping gags and barbs are even better. Writers Gary Lawson & John Phelps, along with series creators Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, are confident enough in their cast to make room for poignancy – yes, Dorien’s an old slapper, but she’s a vulnerable old slapper.

There’s a real tenderness, too, in the relationship between the sisters. These moments are fleeting – unlike later series of Only Fools and Horses, say, Birds never forgets it’s here to make us laugh – but they ground the gags in recognisable reality.

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Stephen Pallister as the son of one of Dorien’s charges and Penelope Woodman as a police officer lend solid, if perhaps too broad, support. Newcomer Charlie Quirke has an appealing naturalism as Travis. Yes, he is Pauline’s son, and why not? – if you’re going to take the family on tour, make ’em work their passage. Quirke the younger has obviously inherited some talent and gained some craft; it would be interesting to see the young man he’s sharing the role with, Louis Dunford – his mother’s also an actor, Linda someone …

So yes, the Birds have got older but here they are in the city of Miss Jean Brodie, and very much in their prime. Age has not withered them – I can easily see Joseph, Quirke and Robson splitting the sides of fellow residents if they ever do wind up in one of those old folks’ homes for thespians. I just hope they’ll sell me a ticket.

Running time 2 hours
Run ends Saturday 13 April
Daily 7.30pm (Wed, Sat mat, 2.30pm).
Ticket details on King’s Theatre website:

Bird of a Feather Tour dates for 2013:

9 – 13 Apr Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
16 – 20 Apr Glasgow
Theatre Royal
08448 717 627 Book online
30 Apr – 4 May Northampton
01604 624 811 Book online
7 – 11 May Liverpool
08448 713 017 Book online
14 – 18 May Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627 Book online
21 – 25 May Southampton
02380 711 811 Book online
28 May – 1 Jun Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 112 121 Book online
18 – 22 Jun Bromley
Churchill Theatre
08448 717 620 Book online
25 – 29 Jun York
The Grand Opera House
08448 472 322 Book online


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