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Di and Viv and Rose, Hampstead Theatre

Amelia Bullmore

Directed by Anna Mackmin

Pros: A play about life and friendship that is easy to relate to, funny and heart-warming. It is brilliantly acted by a high calibre cast and the costumes and sound design realistically evoke the passing of time.

Cons: There are a lot of unnecessary set changes which chops up the flow of the drama and as there is no crew, the actors make the changes themselves which gets a bit distracting.

Our Verdict: Guaranteed to make you laugh and probably cry (as I did), this play is like a good novel with plenty of story. Don’t be fooled that this is one for the girls – the friendship theme is universal.

Courtesy of Hampstead Theatre

The story opens with three very different girls meeting in halls at university. The relationships between them are quickly and cleverly established and then we witness their characters grow and develop. There is plenty to laugh about here, sometimes at them, sometimes along with them. We get to know their stories, the life they came from, their hopes and dreams for the future. The costumes are familiar to those of us old enough to remember the eighties and the soundtrack is excellent, well placed in the action and underwrites the feel good sentiment that perfectly befits carefree uni days.

I love the way this play opens – it generates almost instant affection for the characters and draws the audience into their lives. We know and care for Di, Viv and Rose, we identify with aspects of their personalities, their antics and attitudes. The play then moves on to their lives after university which, although it sounds like a cliché, are truly full of trials and tribulations. Without giving anything away, there are some really shocking emotional moments, delivered out of the blue, just like life changing events often are. Laughter and tears arrive sometimes simultaneously and friendships are tested as the women grow into their separate identities, no longer bound by the commonality of uni life. I left the theatre still thinking about the characters, drawing reference to experiences and people in my own life. It’s hard not to – the beauty in this play is just how broadly sympathetic and relatable it is in so many ways.

The impact of this story would not work without credible delivery and this is where the fantastic cast come in. Di, Viv and Rose are three very different characters and the casting is key to ensuring that this contrast is highlighted whilst the friendships are still believable. Tamzin Outhwaite plays the straight talking gay, sports mad Di. Outhwaite owns her character, her strength, her acceptance and her vulnerability – she is the common sense in the trio. The wonderful Gina McKee plays the intellectual, feminist, socially inept Viv who is driven and determined to leave a legacy in words. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Rose so beautifully, acting on instinct, always happy. These three are absolutely perfect for their chosen roles, there are so many nuances, so many small details that add vibrancy to the characters and establish rapport between them. The dialogue flows so easily and realistically it is easy to forget these are not real people you are evesdropping on.

The play is made up of many scenes representing time passing, some are around ten minutes long while others are merely seconds in duration. This is a really effective tool but with these scenes came set changes carried out by the cast. This is deliberate as Bullmore wants only the three friends on stage, so the audience is focused only on the relationship between them. What I didn’t enjoy was that there are too many minor scenery changes that add very little to the overall interpretation. A chair is moved here, a fan is introduced there, the telephone gets moved – all of these break up the flow of the drama and break the connection with the audience, seemingly countering the intention. That said the major scene changes are fitting and I loved the three frames that show snapshots of Di, Viv and Rose’s characters.

There is so much to enjoy about this play as it is cleverly written, wonderfully acted and leaves a lasting impression. I do hope it transfers to the West End as it is has so much to offer a wide audience of theatre goers.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Di and Viv and Rose runs at Hampstead Theatre until 23rd February 2013
Box Office: 020 7722 9301 or book online at http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2012/di-and-viv-and-rose/

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