I cannot help but feel a prick of cynicism when I hear of a sitcom revival, be it on stage or screen, particularly when it comes to the point of motivation. It is not an especially peculiar response, as far as I am aware, and on many occasions it has proved justified. However, on the odd occasion, I have been struck with a most pleasant surprise, most recently with the highly successful stage production of the 1980’s BBC comedy series, Yes, Prime Minister.
But what of a more family friendly, early evening show such as Birds Of A Feather? The series has been off the radar now for almost 15 years and, to be perfectly frank, I’d pretty much forgotten about all together. It shocked me, therefore, to learn whilst glancing over my brightly pink program that it gained over 20 million viewers at times during its run. Figures that I have only ever heard mentioned alongside the likes of Only Fools And Horses, with regards to the Situation Comedy.
Well, if tonight’s experience is anything to go by, I can safely state that Birds Of A Feather is not merely a fleeting footnote in the history of British television, but a bold chapter in a unique collection of comedy greats.
No, it’s not as witty as the highly satirical Yes, Prime Minister. No, it doesn’t quite possess the cheeky charm of the endlessly popular Only Fools And Horses. But it did have enough wit and charm to earn quite a substantial following and, by any standards but particularly in relation to the modern British sitcom, this is not an accomplishment merely to be glanced over.
Having said that, the plot in this evening’s show is, as with most of this genre (or sub-genre), is wafer thin and, for the most part, inconsequential. Let’s just say it’s got to do with the apparent murder of a wealthy pensioner, a will and a familiar over-sexed, dark haired diva. But its point here, and no doubt it’s long term overriding strength, is its wickedly sharp, yet playfully rasping tongue.
Some of the jokes, admittedly, fall flat and are perhaps not quite on the button as assumed, but the majority send ripples, if not waves, of laughter throughout the audience. Both the writing and the performances are smart, energetic and possess a joy that tickles the thought that no doubt bounces within them… “Yes! It’s good to be back!”
It cannot be denied, however, that the true star, much as in the original series, is Lesley Joseph as the bed-hopping neighbour from hell. Even younger men such as myself (ehm!) cannot resist her smiling, feminine glow and effortless charm… despite the unfortunate fact that, at certain angles, she resembles a transvestite at a Cruella Deville conference during a wet weekend in Blackpool.
This is escapism of the very highest order, not to be missed on these cold and wet nights that seem to be carrying on so endlessly. Grab a friend. Grab a sherry. Grab a ticket. And enjoy a nostalgic night out with the queens of British comedy.
Til Saturday 13th April