Birds' feathers still flying high 

Birds and chicks of a feather: Linda Robson's son Louis, Linda, Lesley Joseph, Pauline Quirke and Pauline's son Charlie.

THEY may be older and wiser, and the feathers might be a little greyer, but the birds are back and just as funny as ever.

It was Christmas Eve 1998 when Birds of a Feather was last on our screens with the predatory Dorien stalking anything young(ish), fit(ish) and male(ish), bolshie Sharon was at war with the world and . . . well . . . sort of normal Tracey was being . . . sort of normal.

And perhaps that is why Linda Robson is regarded with such affection in the nation's collective heart. She is normal, ordinary, down to earth, one of us. She is a mum and, recently a gran, or Nanna in her case, loves nothing better than nights in with her husband of 25 years Mark and her family . . . oh and her job is acting, something she is good at and a job which sometimes pays the bills and sometimes doesn't.

So how did it feel to get back together with Lesley Joseph and Pauline Quirke again after all these years? Linda said: “It was like we had never been away. It was strange. It was exciting and really fantastic

.Linda Robson back as if she had never been away.

“When we started rehearsals the director couldn't stop us talking. We were terrible. We had kept in touch but we hadn't met up so we had so much to talk about”

The trio rejected the first scripts and asked for the original writers who they had been used to working with, so Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who created the original series, along with Gary Lawson and John Phelps, got to work.

They wrote not only a Birds of a Feather play but a very funny comedy that can stand on its own two feet - even if you have never even heard of the BBC show. This is no TV series rehash, welding together old episodes; it is bang up to date catching up with the trio some 15 years on. Travis, Linda's baby son of 1998 is now a teenager and in the play, for about half the time, is played by her real son Louis. The rest of the time it is Pauline Quirke's son Charlie.

Indeed it is a bit of a family affair with Linda's daughter Lauren coming to see the show along with Pauline's daughter Emily, 27, which was all a bit emotional as the daughters had been going along to watch filming of the original series in school holidays all those years ago.

Linda said: “There are still a few parts which are a bit Agatha Christie, with the policeman and all that, but it seems to work and there are a few parts the audience are never sure about.”

The main incident in that category is a scene with Lesley Joseph as Dorien, which produces more gasps of shock than anything else. It would spoil it to explain too much but Linda said: “It doesn't get a big laugh and the audience are not sure if it is meant to happen or an accident . . . it is very brave of Lesley to do it.

“Lesley is marvellous though. She has done a lot of touring and knows all the theatres and tells us the best places to go and the best places to stay.”

Lesley, who has a long list of theatre credits, has toured with Calendar Girls and will be back again with the show in the autumn, and she was also in the Midlands recently with the comedy Hot Flush.

The success of the touring production and positive reaction of audiences meanwhile has already rattled the cages of TV executives and there is talk of a possible return to our screens of a one-off or even a new TV series.

Dorien, Tracey and Sharon find their problems mounting as the night wears on. Picture: John Kemp

The show arrives at The New Alexandra theatre on Monday May 14 for  a week, and is far enough away from London for Linda  to put her feet up and relax – relatively speaking of course..

When the show is close enough to London she takes the chance to live at home and travel to the theatre each evening but that means extra work. “I still do the school run and the housework and still do the tea and then go off to work.”

But she would not have it any other way. “I love nothing more than being at home with my husband and my kids, my whole life is my family.

“I fell into acting by accident and when I am doing it I take it seriously but at the end of the day it is a job. We are not curing cancer or saving lives, we are just doing a job.”

And very well she is doing it too . . . but for Linda there is always a life outside theatre such as being a Trustee of Children with Cancer and a Patron of The Ben Kinsella Trust.  

And as for family? Linda, like so many parents, is now finding out what it means to move on to being a grandparent after daughter Lauren presented her with a grand-daughter last month. 

“I was at the birth which was incredible. She's called Lila, that's the first two letters of Linda and the first two of Lauren which is so beautiful and I just love her so much.”

Like I said, Linda Robson is ordinary, in the nicest possible way, and that is what makes her so special.

Roger Clarke

REVIEW of the show at Wolverhampton Grand last month

Birds of a Feather opens at The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on Monday May 14 and runs to May 19.  

Incidentally today (27-04-12) saw the release of the film Outside Bet which stars Bob Hoskins in a tale set amid the industrial turmoil in 1985 about a group of newspaper print union workers made redundant when their firm closes down who decide to invest their paltry pay-outs in a racehorse.

Linda plays one of the wives, Lil, who she says spends much of the time “with her head in a bucket being sick”. 

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