Those original Essex girls, Sharon and Tracey, have been away from the small screen for far too long. So welcome back Birds of A Feather to a stage near you.
It’s been an astonishing 15 years since the sisters from Chigwell, along with their sexually voracious neighbour, Dorien, last ducked and dived on the BBC.
Now Essex is the flavour de jour with TV execs and viewers it seemed an ideal time to remind everyone what a well written sitcom is.
The girls were warmly welcomed to the Royal & Derngate on Tuesday and, if you can’t get to the Northampton venue before Saturday, then never fear. Their national tour takes them to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre on May 14.
Shar and Trace may be a few years older but little has changed in their lives. Both husbands are long gone, Pauline Quirke’s workshy Sharon is still milking the system and enjoying life under the exec detached roof of Tracey and her 16-year-old son Travis who has picked up a few genetic flaws from his errant burglar dad.
And Dorien? Lesley Joseph, Northampton’s answer to Joan Collins, is now running the Cherish retirement home – or, as she likes to put it – a private retirement facility for the comfortably well off. Oh, and she’s a suspected murderess.
But she’s not quite ready for Prisoner Cell Block H denims just yet. She’s a knockout in costumes that are pure Dynasty - clingy micro-mini dresses, dazzling bling, five-inch stripper’s heels, and tons of slap. “She’s had more work done than the M25!” says Sharon. I wouldn’t be that cruel but she has smashing legs for a 67-year-old.
The script, from original TV creators Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran plus writers Gary Lawson and John Phelps, has lost none of its edge and includes a few topical gags.
The versatile Pauline Quirke, who recently played the sinister wife of a child molester in ITV’s smash hit thriller, Broadchurch, is obviously glad to be back doing comedy.
She and Joseph are the more animated of the trio, and get the best lines, with the more serious Robson acting as their straight-man (when she’s not corpsing –Tracey’s unable to keep a straight face when Sharon has a dig at the “rubbish celebrities” who appear on I’m a Celebrity as Linda was on the show last year.)
She attacks Sharon for losing yet another job. “Not sacked! I have been let go,” she smarts.
It’s still a cracking comedy in the best of traditions. At the end of the first night the trio had a group hug on stage and it’s well deserved.
*I’m reliably informed that the show may be returning to television some time in the near future. Look out for it in the schedules.
Birds Of A Feather runs on the Derngate stage until Saturday. For tickets call the box office 01604 624811 or online www.royalandderngate.co.uk
The show is on at the Waterside May 14-18. For tickets call 0844 871 7607 or go online www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury