Birds take flight to great effect

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SHAL, Trace and Dorien are back in the spotlight and it seems as if they’ve never been away.

Birds of a Feather, the TV sitcom that delighted us for almost ten years until 1998, has now taken to the stage and the touring production proved the perfect antidote to the dreadful summer weather when it reached Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s creation has been adapted for the stage by The Comedy Theatre Company. Writers Gary Lawson and John Phelps turn the misadventures of sisters Sharon Theodopolopoudos and Tracey Stubbs (Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson) into a theatrical joy, with some equally brilliant moments from Lesley Joseph as their sex-mad, man-eating neighbour Dorien Green.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Sharon and Tracey, who’ve been living different lives with very different experiences of marriage, are suddenly brought together when their husbands are convicted of armed robbery.

For hard-up Sharon, Chris’s crime comes as no surprise but Tracey, who’d been living a nouveau-riche dream life in Chigwell, is shell-shocked to find her beloved Darryl could be a criminal.

Sharon moves in with Tracey, both to keep her company and enjoy the mod cons of her plush home. They’re rarely left alone, though, thanks to the nagging presence of Dorien.

The play finds them in their home Shalentrace with Tracey’s teenage son Travis, played alternatively by Charlie Quirke and Louis Dunford, the real-life sons of Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson.

Dorien is now the proprietor of the Cherish Retirement Home “for the well-off” and she offers the pair jobs. Sharon, who has just been booted out by Lidl, has mixed feelings about this because it means she’ll have to stop claiming benefit under a number of aliases. From then on it’s all downhill but the plot doesn’t really matter for this is a sharply-written play packed with innuendo, topical wit, devastating one-liners, and not much room for cloying sentimentality.

All three are given an equal share of great lines, the timing is perfect and the length is just right. Amidst the chaos there is strong support from Robert Maskell as a vengeful son whose father has just died in the home and Caroline Burns Cooke as a detective sergeant.