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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The girls are back – and this time it is even more of a family affair. Birds of a Feather will be recreated on stage at Norwich Theatre Royal. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH catches up with Linda Robson.
It has been an exciting and nerve-racking time for Linda Robson – not only has her daughter just had a baby but Birds of a Feather is now live on stage.
And as well as appearing at theatres all over the country with former sitcom mates Pauline Quirke and Leslie Joseph, she is also being joined by two faces who are very familiar to her, if not to her audience.
“My son Louis, who is 20, and Pauline’s son Charlie, 17, share the role of Travis [Sharon’s son] in this version,” she explains.
“It has been fantastic working with them but I did feel very nervous for them at the beginning – doing something like this is scary until you are used to it.
“I was scared at the beginning too actually. But now it is like we have never been away!”
It has, in fact, been 14 years since sisters Sharon Theodopolopoudos and Tracy Stubbs – joined, of course, by Dorien Green, played by Lesley Joseph – have been out in public.
The sitcom version of Birds of a Feather ran on BBC for nearly ten years from 1989, becoming a massive hit right from the beginning. More than 100 episodes were broadcast and one Christmas special pulled in more than 27 million viewers.
Written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who are behind the stage version, it focused on two sisters, who lived it up in a Chigwell mansion, while their husbands were in prison for armed robbery.
Sharon and Tracy lurched from one hilarious situation to another while their busybody and man-eating neighbour Dorien had affairs with an array of toyboys.
“We all know each other so well that we knew we could support each other through doing it live,” says Linda, who was been friends with Pauline since childhood and first appeared with her on television as a teenager.
“It all sort of fell into place quite quickly and during rehearsals we slipped back into it easily. It did make me nervous because when we were doing it on television we knew that if we made a mistake we could do it again.
“But we picked it up quickly and were able to help each other out.”
Linda’s first television role was in the second series of the original BBC Survivors drama screened in 1976.
She later appeared with Pauline in Pauline’s Quirkes in 1976, and then in comedy drama Shine on Harvey Moon, in 1982.
Following the huge success of Birds of a Feather, she has appeared as a regular guest panellist on Loose Women, programmes such as The Bill and Crossroads, and alongside Jenny Eclair and Dillie Keane in the original cast of Grumpy Old Women Live.
Pauline began her career as an actor when she was just eight, with an appearance in Dixon of Dock Green. As a teenager, she hosted three children’s TV series and later also appeared in Shine on Harvey Moon.
After Birds of a Feather, she starred in the BBC television adaptation of The Sculptress by Minette Walters and took the title role in BBC drama series Maisie Raine, and in 2010 joined the cast of TV soap opera Emmerdale as Hazel Rhodes, the mother of Jackson Walsh.
Linda and Pauline also appeared together in a long-running series of Surf adverts.
“It has been nice working together again,” admits Linda. “When they first started talking about doing a stage version of Birds of A Feather we weren’t very sure about it but when they got the original writers in, and we realised what a fantastic job they had done, we were very keen.”
The stage show takes up the story of the three main characters and sees the sisters summoned to a “private retirement facility” by Dorien.
But when they arrive, all is not as they expected it to be.
“The show has been going down very well with the audience so far,” says Linda. “My daughter goes on Twitter and she says the response has been great.”
Both the boys, who opted to share the part due to other commitments, have also taken to the live version.
“It has been good fun for them – they obviously knew each other before this but have got on even better since doing the show.”
The nerves have now abated somewhat for everyone, she admits.
On top of doing Birds of a Feather, Pauline was anxious as Charlie approached his driving test and Linda has been eagerly awaiting the birth of her grandchild.
“But Charlie has now passed and the baby has arrived now – and is absolutely gorgeous,” she says.
And she admits: “We have all relaxed into it a bit more now.
“We are enjoying being on stage and are able to relax now between shows too, going off together for a coffee, and having a natter when we have a break – like we used to in the old days.”
t Birds Of A Feather, Norwich Theatre Royal, June 11-18, £22.50-£6.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk