by Pam Gems
Directed by Helen Eastman
Pros: A fast-paced, engaging, politically charged show with characters that enter your heart slowly but surely. Powerfully directed and flawlessly executed.
Cons: Some may find the tiny estrogen-filled flat a bit claustrophobic by the end… but this is a 4-woman sitcom show after all!
Our Verdict: Another great period show at the Finborough. Head to Earl’s Court before the show sells out!
|Courtesy of Jagged Fence Productions|
“Is Valium habit-forming?” asks Dusa – “Depression is, Love.” is Fish’s disenchanted answer.
By now it’s no secret that the Finborough has a habit of digging out long-forgotten plays and turning them into near perfect productions. Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi is the latest play to be resurrected, and what a great choice! First staged back in 1976 at the Edinburgh Fringe and then adapted for the West End, this was first Pam Gems’ first successful play. She went on to have future fame with Piaf, Pasionaria and The Danton Affair, to name a few. Sadly though, in the last few decades, Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi seemed to have all but disappeared from stages across the capital.
Back in the days, the play was branded a ‘feminist icon’. Perhaps the fact that it involves four young women all in search of their own way amongst a backdrop of fragile nerves, anorexia, relationship breakdowns, liberated sex, child custody battles and political statements has got something to do with it. However, Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi is much more than a feminist icon. It’s a picture of London in the 70s and one that still holds true 40 years on. In fact, I think it could all be happening at my friend’s flat in Dalston today.
It all starts with a gentle introduction to the four characters. Each of the girls will enter your heart slowly but surely with excellent acting from all fronts. Helena Johnson’s punk and Buddha infused Vi is an intriguing presence all way through. Starting off depressed, irritable and fully anorexic, she changes into a witty and sociable soul after starting treatment with God-knows-what chemicals. Sophie Scott’s sophisticated version of Dusa, a mother battling to keep her two children whilst the ex-husband takes them on a breakaway journey through Africa and South America, is well rendered and a joy to listen to. She represents the battle of so many women who seem to have to fight for the rights they ought to be naturally entitled to. Emily Dobbs’ powerful interpretation of physiotherapist-turning-luxury-escort-at-night Stas, strangely seems to be holding the whole group together with her disenchanted, scientifically minded approach to life and the liberated use of her body as a way to pay her way off to a degree in Marine Biology at Hawaii University. However, it is Fish’s drama around her relationship’s failings that keeps the pace of the show ticking along. Olivia Poulet is nothing short of superb in her interpretation of Fish, a barrister who enjoys all sorts of professional success and political speeches, complete with 70s slogans like “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” – whilst in fact becoming increasingly psychotic and depressed because of her own obsession with her university sweetheart, who appears to be moving on in life without her.
Take this all together -with lots of action on stage and enjoyable banter, all fuelled with alcohol, Valium and some much fitting wacky-backy smoking – and you are in for a veritable treat of a show. Not to mention Katie Bellman’s psychedelic 1970’s stage design and Matt Downing’s excellent rock/punk soundtrack choices, which filled me with nostalgia all way through.
All in all, another very enjoyable period performance at the Finborough – filled with fun, alcohol, drugs, female hormones and a fair bit of drama. This is a really fantastic revival, so do secure your seat before they are all gone!
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi runs at Finborough Theatre until Saturday 3rd August 2013.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at