Theatre Review: Birds Of A Feather, Edinburgh

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WHAT seems like the blink of an eye is always brought into stark relief when you bump into your old neighbour from down the road and discover her ten-year-old is now 33 and living in Australia.

King’s Theatre, Leven Street * * *

On top of that, she’s got a disgruntled teen in tow who was but a twinkle in her eye the last time you caught up over a cuppa.

As you sit down for a natter, however, the world falls away and you realise nothing’s really changed after all.

Much like dropping into the Chigwell living room of Tracey Stubbs, in fact. Fourteen years may have passed since we last eavesdropped on the latest shenanigans of Birds of a Feather trio Tracey, Sharon and Dorien, but it might as well have been last week.

Wisely negotiating for a fresh script from creators Marks and Gran before committing to appear in a play based on the hit sitcom of the same name, actresses Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph tread light on the boards, their characters skipping through the gag-laden script like just another day on set in the TV studio circa 1996.

Running at just under two hours, including the interval, the play could be neatly described as the Christmas Day special they never got round to making.

Indeed, there are moments when it feels like nostalgiamongers Marks and Gran couldn’t quite let go of the idea of Birds of a Feather as a TV show.

There is a pre-recorded car journey, a karaoke singalong that doesn’t quite make the grade on stage, and times when you find yourself aching for a close up of one of those 
well-known character so that you can read them better.

Yet the on-stage frisson suits the actresses well, so comfortable are they together that there’s ample room for the odd ad-lib when a cue is missed and the warmth they exude is clearly engaging and authentic.

There’s also the chance for uber-Cougar Dorien to throw in the odd gesture that would have a BBC exec speed dialling the lawyers.

The plot’s silly and underdeveloped, but the genuine goodwill and willingness to laugh that the audience brings with them makes up for any shortcomings.

• Run ends Saturday.