Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 24 January 2013

Di and Viv and Rose

Hampstead Theatre ⋄ 17th January - 23rd February 2013

Friends reunited.

Julia Rank

Female friendships can be just as intense and often last longer than marriages and romantic relationships, yet it’s very rare for women’s relationships with each other to take centre stage. In Amelia Bullmore’s snappily episodic and thoroughly winning three-hander, one of the heroines comments offhandedly, “I’m getting a divorce – I got married”. First staged in Hampstead’s Downstairs studio in 2011, Anna Mackmin’s punchy production addresses the complexities of this bond without polemic or Sex and the City lifestyle porn and provides plenty of heart and truth, as well as a smattering of random facts that so often pop up in late night conversations, such as how the corset affected its wearers’ digestive systems.

Charting the relationship of three unlikely best friends, the titular Di, Viv and Rose, from their first meetings at a hall of residence pay phone in the 1980s to the present decade. Bullmore demonstrates that there can be a certain truth in clichés, from the obligatory Le Chat Noir poster displayed in the living room to the way in which people dress in order to convey a message. One of the most striking scenes is a wordless montage in which the friends mime to a Prince record, dance wildly and tumble over the sofa with wild abandon in a joyous encapsulation of carefree, heady student days.

The chemistry between Anna Maxwell Martin, Tamzin Outhwaite and Gina McKee is a pleasure and the decision to cast actresses in their thirties and forties to play younger for the first act rather than the other way around is a triumph of experience over youth. The role of the ever sunny and slightly away-with-the-fairies country girl Rose, the lynchpin of the three, provides a delicious opportunity for Maxwell Martin to show off her flair for comedy. Nominally studying for an art history degree due to a sincere but vague love for beautiful things, the novelty of being around boys for the first time and sleeping with as many of them as possible like a sex-mad Pollyanna proves rather distracting and not without consequences.

The cast-against-type Outhwaite (the only returning member of the original cast) brings a no-nonsense tenderness to the gruff, sporty Di, free to be openly lesbian at term time but concealing her sexuality from her mother during the holidays. As sociologist Viv, who “dresses like it’s the war” before it became fashionable, McKee’s awe-inspiring beauty and formidable froideur brings real gravitas to the most academic and ambitious of the trio who gets the professional success that she longs for, but finds herself isolated in the process.

Bullmore blends comedy and tragedy uncommonly well; the more sombre second half in which tragedy strikes (the predictability doesn’t diminish its emotional punch) details the struggle to remain friends when growing apart, allowing the piece to end on a note of hope, but without sentimentality. Eminently likable and imbued with warmth, it’s very easy to imagine a further life for this gem of a play that would be well deserving of a transfer to a small West End theatre.

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Julia Rank

Julia is a Londoner who recently completed a MA in Victorian Studies at Birkbeck College. Resolutely living in the past until further notice, Julia finds enjoyment in exploring art galleries and museums, dabbling in foreign languages, rummaging in second hand bookshops, and cats.

Di and Viv and Rose Show Info


Directed by Anna Mackim

Written by Amelia Bullmore

Cast includes Tamzin Outhwaite, Gina McKee, Anna Maxwell Martin

Link http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/

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