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Di and Viv and Rose, Vaudeville Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Di and Viv and Rose, Vaudeville Theatre

Di and Viv and Rose, Vaudeville Theatre

A frank, funny and deeply felt meditation on defining friendships

When shall we three meet again? Soul sisters Di (Tamzin Outhwaite), Viv (Samantha Spiro) and Rose (Jenna Russell)Johan Persson

Is there any bond more powerful than shared history? If life is the sum total of our experiences, then those who experienced it with us will always hold a piece of us – and none more intimate than those formative years when we are figuring out who we want to become. Friendships forged on the cusp of adulthood rival great affairs in their intensity, but can be just as difficult to maintain.

Amelia Bullmore’s Hampstead hit, earning a well-deserved West End transfer, is both loving and uncompromising in its incisive study of long-term friendships. Her schematically disparate trio meet at university in 1983: sporty, lesbian, working-class business student Di (Tamzin Outhwaite); driven, rigorously reserved sociologist Viv (Samantha Spiro, pictured below right); and posh, beatifically open-hearted – and open-legged – Rose (Jenna Russell), nominally studying art history alongside her campus-wide sexual odyssey.

Di and Viv and Rose, Vaudeville TheatreAlthough the developmental benefit of contrasting points of view is a prevailing theme, Bullmore and her superb cast wisely desist from overstating the characters differences. Instead, they organically fuel the warm-hearted comedy of their house share and later moments of devastation: amusing disconnects curdle when an inability to understand one another’s needs causes real pain. The play’s structure reflects the trajectory of these relationships, lingering on the student years and then dashing through decades – effective thematically, but creating some jagged transitions and the odd unsatisfying snapshot.

But it’s hard to mind too much when you’re in such winning company. Bullmore’s piece is less overtly political than Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, the 1976 feminist classic it resembles in name and premise, but offers a far more emotionally engaging and still too rare portrait of women in all their complexity. Her trio, seizing the opportunities of liberation yet stymied by conflicting choices, support one another as they explore different roles, but also – as only old friends can – strip away the façade when necessary. No amount of po-faced New York power dressing can erase the memory of a screamingly euphoric air guitar session, nor a moment of abject vulnerability.

Di and Viv and Rose, Vaudeville TheatreThe success of this play rests on the authenticity of its created family, and Anna Mackmin has assembled another impeccable team. Original cast member Outhwaite beautifully reveals the uncertainty beneath Di’s swagger, while Spiro, though not entirely committed to a northern accent, otherwise fully embodies Viv, who lectures on the misogyny of confining corsets while constraining herself through blinkered ambition. Russell (pictured left) relishes Rose’s charmingly blithe dippiness – the creative use of pedestal fan is particularly memorable – but deftly avoids caricature, shading her enough so that Viv’s accusation of kindness stemming from neediness has some merit.

Mackmin’s energetic production features a better soundtrack than most jukebox musicals and spot-on design from Paul Wills, which, along with laundry squabbles, chip-pan fire posters and ever-present bikes, evokes student living with just the right combination of realism and nostalgia. Like a great friendship, this wise and witty gem is one for the ages.

Amusing disconnects curdle when an inability to understand one another’s needs causes real pain


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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