Review: Early Birds by Q Productions

This play about the making of Birds of a Feather just doesn't fly

★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Early Birds by Q Productions. Image: Peter Dibdin
Published 16 Aug 2018

This is bizarre. A play chronicling the birth of one of the nation’s favourite sitcoms, written by the show’s actual creators. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have taken it upon themselves to pen a short—only 50 minutes—piece revealing the story behind Birds of a Feather, the TV show they conceived together way back in the late '80s.

As you’d expect, it’s a pretty slick script, slipping swiftly between the writer’s room, the halls of the BBC and various production offices, following the sitcom from idea to first airing. There’s a stylish, scene-hopping speed to it, and a few nice performances, particularly from Nick Seenstra and Alastair Natkiel as a young Marks and a young Gran respectively.

It’s let down, though, by a sincerely ropey production and a story that’s just not that interesting. There are few attempts to get at something deeper—the presence of working-class voices both behind and in front of the camera, for example—but these are largely sidestepped in favour of strangely self-aggrandizing, strangely straightforward storytelling. There’s zero jeopardy and zero drama.

Plus it’s not like this is the inside story everyone was dying to hear. Birds of a Feather was popular, sure, but it’s not exactly seminal stuff. Early Birds is just such a weird show. Two writers, celebrating their own achievements by repeatedly patting their own backs in a fringe theatre play. Fans of the sitcom might be interested, if there are any about, but no one else will be.