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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Vaudeville


  Ph: Johan Persson

Bringing together a disparate set of cohabiting young women under one roof and watching the effect their variegated personalities have on one another is hardly breaking new theatrical ground. I vaguely remember a TV series called Take Three Girls that followed a similar route, as did Pam Gems’ 1976 play Dusa, Fish Stas and Vi.

The latest variation on the theme of female companionship in its many manifestations is Di and Viv and Rose by newcomer Amelia Bullmore. Originally tried out last year at Hampstead’s downstairs theatre, followed by a successful transfer to the theatre’s main house, the play, with one exception, has been recast for a West End run, and to judge from the positive vibes the audience was sending forth all evening, Bullmore’s play could take the town. At least where women are concerned. What the average male of the species will make of it is difficult to say.

Three very different young women meet up at a Northern University in 1983 and decide to share a home for the duration of their studies. Di (Tamzin Outhwaite) is an upfront, in-your-face lesbian doing a business course but devoted to sport. Viv (Samantha Spiro) is an uptight sociology student whose passion is fashion. Rose (Jenna Russell), the most instantly appealing of the trio, is an art student who, as far as men and sex are concerned, can’t say no. When she becomes pregnant, there are at least six possible fathers.

Effectively a sped-up sit-com covering 27 years, the play casts a wide narrative net over the trio’s very different lives, allowing us to familiarise ourselves with the good (Viv becomes a successful fashion guru in New York), the bad (Rose dies suddenly, leaving behind twin sons) and the ugly (Di is raped). How these traumatic events affect the dynamics of their relationships is the marrow in the bones of the play.

It’s not a particularly original or profound piece of work, but it’s well written, and Bullmore’s observations about friendship, the hard work that goes into nurturing it, and the pain and recriminations when things go wrong, are spot on.

The performances from Outhwaite, Spiro and Russell are all beautifully rounded. Anna Mackmin’s direction somehow manages to impose a neat structure on an ambitious, sometimes messy plotline. And the set and lighting by Paul Wills and Oliver Fenwick create time and place most convincingly. This could be the hen-party sleeper hit of the winter.


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