As soon as I heard about this, I knew I had to see it. An onstage reunion of some of my favourite characters from my childhood played by the original actresses? What was there to think about? Nonetheless, a couple of doubts remained. Would Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph be able to recreate their screen magic of fifteen years ago? I needn't have worried.
Tracey Stubbs (Robson) and Sharon Theodopolopodous (Quirke) haven't heard from old neighbour Dorien (Joseph) since the day after the 1997 election. When they receive a letter asking them to visit her at a retirement home they (well, Sharon) are ecstatic at the thought of Dorien being reduced to a care home but the joke's on them when they find her running the place. They accept her offer of employment and everything goes smoothly until poor Mr Zimmerman is found dead in his bed - having changed his will the week before to benefit Dorien. Suddenly she's in the frame for murder. Running alongside this is the fact that Tracey has lied to her son, Travis (played alternately by Louis Dunford and Charlie Quirke), telling him that his dad's dead instead of simply in prison. That lie could be about to come crashing down around her ears.
The script was hilarious. It was typical Birds of a Feather, updated for the modern day. There were references to David Cameron, Little Mix and Greece, amongst other things, and the characters certainly hadn't changed - only developed a little. Sharon doesn't say no to fiddling her benefits if the opportunity arises and has just been sacked from Lidl. Tracey has developed agoraphobia, the only way Sharon can get her to visit Dorien is by sticking a Lidl plastic bag over her head. As for Dorien... Well, she's still tramping around in high heels and very short dresses, though there's something distinctly odd about her hair these days...
The comedy barely slowed throughout the first act, though one of my favourite parts had to be Tracey and Sharon singing to the elderly folk in the home - 'Three Steps to Heaven' and 'Another One Bites the Dust'. However, after the fast pace of the first act, things did slow down a little in the second with a heart to heart between Tracey and Dorien. That moment was certainly needed, bringing emotion to the piece whilst also remaining true to the characters.
Setting-wise, the stage was perfect. The production started off with the familiar theme tune then the stage altered between depicting Sharon and Tracey's living room and the lounge at Dorien's residential home. There were some nice voice-overs to keep the audience happy while the set changes were taking place which worked brilliantly. The audience was in stitches throughout - occasionally making things a little difficult to hear! - and that's the sign of an excellent production. Hopefully, it can also be taken as a sign by television bosses that old-fashioned sitcoms still have their place in modern Britain. Go on, bring it back!