Di and Viv and Rose**** (Vaudeville Theatre)

Posted: February 15, 2015 in Theatre

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I resisted this play during its run at Hampstead Theatre and for the first few weeks of its West End transfer, fearing that a grouchy old man could have some difficulty in connecting with what appeared to be the sisterly equivalent of a bromance or Britain’s answer to Beaches. In fact, it can be described fairly as both those things and the opening scenes, filled with girly humour and playing like a limp sitcom, do little to allay fears. However, writer Amelia Bullmore (aka Kay Hope in 2012) shows remarkable skill in developing her three characters and, by the middle of Act I, I was completely hooked. The quirky details incorporated into the dialogue at first seem to be there just to generate cheap laughs, but they accumulate to create a composite picture that is revealing and truthful. Only Tamzin Outhwaite, as the stubbornly independent lesbian Di, has moved with the play from Hampstead. Samantha Spiro is now the frigid workaholic Viv and Jenna Russell is the naive and casually promiscuous Rose. The play begins in the early 1980s with the trio sharing a house whilst studying at Manchester University and covers a period of almost 30 years. More than half of it takes place during the student days and the obvious casting might have been young actors who could have been aged with make-up, but the casting of actors in their 40s turns out to be a masterstroke. The minor incongruities of seeing mature women behaving like teenagers are by far outweighed by the depth and richness that is added to the characters; it is said that people themselves never change, only other people’s perceptions of them and this is a play which demonstrates the point amply. Progressively, the jokes become thinner and the themes darker, as the characters encounter life’s ordeals and challenges and Anna Mackmin’s production is always sympathetic to the changes in tone. Ultimately, Bullmore sets out to examine the nature and worth of lifelong friendship, asking what friends can give to each other and what they should expect to receive in return. Funny and often moving, this is not a play to be appreciated and enjoyed only by women; it has universal resonance.

Performance date: 13 February 2015

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