Churchill Theatre Bromley
Summary: engaging, if slightly dated, return to the classic sitcom
For the best part of the 90’s the BBC sitcom Birds of a Feather dominated the TV comedy schedules. The tale of two Essex sisters, Sharon (Pauline Quirk) and Tracey (Linda Robson), thrown together when their husbands are jailed for a botched robbery, and their lecherous, Jewish, pseudo-posh neighbour Doreen (Lesley Joseph) captivated the nation. At its peak, it drew in over 20 million viewers.
Nearly 15 years after the last TV broadcast of the show, this stage production re-unites the 3 female leads and picks up almost where the TV show left off. Time has passed and life has moved on. Sharon has left her husband and is jumping from one menial job to another whilst trying to fiddle the social services. Tracey has spent the time bringing up her youngest son as a single parent following the apparent death of her husband and, in the process, become an agoraphobic; only able to leave the house with a Lidl bag over her head.
Doreen has been absent from the sisters’ lives, having divorced her husband and used her share of the settlement to set up a retirement home for the wealthy. Following a mass walk out of the retirement home’s Polish staff, Doreen is forced to get in contact with her former neighbours to help her manage the more domestic elements of running her business. And so the trio reunite and the bitchy interplay that so dominated the TV show takes centre stage again.
The plot of the play, which involves a possible murder, significant family lies and betrayal is stretched thin and the narrative lacks focus. It verges on farce, but without the over the top exuberance needed to make it work. Interestingly, the show is funniest and most engaging when the plot is put on hold and the three women are just engaging with each other on the mundane elements of their respective lives.
The humour when it hits the mark is laugh-out-loud funny but at times it does seem rather dated. The overall direction is rather flat too; it lacks pace and energy, and the use of video in between scenes feels more like a distraction than an enhancement to the story.
The supporting cast lack any engagement and fail to impress on stage. The 3 leads, whilst not having the strongest stage presence, are familiar enough with each other and amongst themselves that they carry of their roles more than admirably.
If you’re not a fan of the original TV show, there’s little here to make you change your mind. And if you’re not aware of the show at all, you may struggle getting up to speed with the underlying story, as there is the assumption that the audience will know the characters and show well. But for fans of the show, it’s a reminder of what you’ve been missing and a welcome return to a cherished set of TV friends.