Di and Viv and Rose: ★★★★ from The Telegraph

Posted on 24 January 2013.

Posted in: Theatre Reviews

Di and Viv and Rose: ★★★★ from The Telegraph

Di and Viv and Rose Review
By Charles Spencer, The Telegraph

‘Hampstead is on a roll. Its superb production of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss starring Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde has just transferred to the West End, and I have a hunch that this lovely new play by Amelia Bullmore could follow it there.

There is a mixture of warmth, humour and sadness in both the writing and the performances that is very special indeed.

Years ago there was a TV series called Take Three Girls about three young women sharing a flat in swinging London, of which the only thing I can distinctly remember is the haunting theme tune, Light Flight, by the folk group Pentangle.

Perhaps Bullmore had subliminal memories of it too, for her play concerns three female students who meet up as Freshers at a provincial university in 1983 and share a house together. We then follow them through the years, up to 2010, and discover what happened to them and the strains and crises that their friendship endures.

You come to care deeply about all three characters. Rose is a posh, scatty history of art student, an innocent abroad who makes the wonderful discovery that if you ask a boy to sleep with you he almost certainly will.
Di is a no-nonsense lesbian on a business studies course who is exceptionally sporty, while Viv is an earnest and reserved sociology student who dresses in 1940s clothes, observing others sharply and revealing little of herself.

There are moments here that made me cry with laughter, nor least when all three girls dance wildly in their sitting-room to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy pumped up to max on their sound system.

But this is also a play that cuts deeply and asks hard questions, about the nature of kindness for instance, and the way friendship can decay just like everything else. There are moments in the second half that are overwhelmingly moving as the characters experience the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

Anna Mackmin directs a sharply observed, richly enjoyable production, elegantly staged and mixing laughter with sudden jolts of pain and loss. The cast is also outstanding. Anna Maxwell Martin is delightfully funny, warm and touching as Rose, who finds warmth and comfort in the beds of virtual strangers to the dismay of her friends. Tamzin Outhwaite is moving as the brisk straightforward Di who is helped by her friends through a terrible ordeal, while Gina McKee gives a fascinatingly persuasive performance as the kind of person who maintains an air of tantalising reserve in even her closest relationships.

One thought struck me as I left the theatre. Excellent though it is, the play might be even more poignant if it moved backwards rather than forwards in time, like Pinter’s Betrayal and Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. But I suppose smarty-pants critics like me would have accused Bullmore of lack of originality had she taken that option.’

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