“This is getting a bit silly,” Dawn French admits at one point. She’s not wrong, but things get even sillier from that point on, which is just what a French and Saunders live show should do.
A celebration of the duo’s 30-year partnership, Still Alive takes time to warm up. While the mock bickering and characteristic flitting in and out of character work just as well on stage as they have done on screen, there are more than a few duff moments in the first half that threaten to overshadow some of the incredibly funny material that surrounds it.
Characters such as the ladies from Prickly Pear Farm mask some very weak writing with comedy West Country accents, and a joke about the lack of a fourth wall ends up as a prop without a joke.
When the sketches work, though, they really fly. The original role-reversal sketch that was to give birth to Absolutely Fabulous is amongst the many classic moments revived on stage, itself feeding into the couple’s ongoing banter about who has developed the bigger solo career, a running theme that pays off handsomely at the end of the show.
Onstage sketches are interspersed with newly shot video footage of some of French and Saunders’ best characters. The video message from Princess Catherine Zeta Spartacus Douglas Jones has the audience in stitches, as do Jackie and Joan Collins.
While there are many sketches and film spoofs whose absence may disappoint, the overall feeling at the end of this, what French and Saunders say is their last sketch collaboration together, is one of celebration.
Reviewed for The Stage