When it comes to continuing the stories of hugely successful TV shows, the exercise is always a little risky.
So when I went to the Royal & Derngate in Northampton to see the stage play of Birds Of A Feather, a long-running sitcom I loved to watch during the 1990s, I did feel a bit nervous.
But I need not have worried. Thanks to some great acting and the wit of the original writers, the play does nothing to let down the brilliance of its much-loved characters.
The stage version does not attempt to step back in time to 1998 when the sitcom finished, but moves its central characters, Sharon, Tracey and Dorien, to contemporary times.
For those unfamiliar with the sitcom, Sharon and Tracey were sisters married to Darryl and Chris, two convicted robbers facing a long stretch in prison. Man-eating Dorien, meanwhile, lived next door with her long-suffering husband Marcus.
In the play, Sharon and Tracey are still living together in Chigwell, with Tracey’s youngest son Travis. Sharon is still struggling to find a job and preferring to claim benefits, while Tracey is busily keeping Travis from finding out her dark secret.
When the pair receive a letter from Dorien, now the proprietor of a retirement home for the “well-off elderly,” they go along to be reunited with their old friend. But when the sisters start working for Dorien, her life becomes more complicated than she could have imagined.
Birds Of A Feather should not be dismissed as a cosy, old-fashioned British comedy, it is far more than that. The script is so tightly woven with funny lines, and so finely acted, it grips your attention from start to finish. It certainly left me struggling to stop laughing on more than one occasion.
One of my favourite moments was a scene in which Sharon and Tracey perform karaoke for the elderly residents at Dorien’s home, choosing the rather inappropriate selections of Another One Bites The Dust by Queen and Three Steps to Heaven by Eddie Cochran.
A lot of visual comedy is also created by the array of outlandish outfits and hairstyles Dorien adopts during the show.
The play includes the original cast of Broadchurch star Pauline Quirke as Sharon, Linda Robson as Tracey and Northampton’s own Lesley Joseph as Dorien. Pauline was my favourite performer, demonstrating a wonderful sense of comic timing, but it is hard to single any of the trio out as they balance each other perfectly...perhaps one reason why the TV programme was such a success.
Birds Of A Feather is thoroughly recommended to anyone who wants a really good laugh and a hefty helping of TV nostalgia.
The play will run until Saturday.