Di and Viv and Rose

Posted : 1 October 2011

This is not just a review of the play. I’ve also included other comments on the production and bits of gossip. If you have plans to go and watch the play, and do you want to know anything about the play beforehand, then don’t read further and click away.

Editor’s Review

Actresses have often bemoaned the fact that there does not appear to be enough good roles for actresses of a certain age. Well, Amelia Bullmore is one actress who has done something to remedy the situation. She has written a beautiful gem of a play, with three very strong parts for three capable actresses.

Di and Viv and Rose at the Hampstead Downstairs theatre is about friendship, love and pain and the whole damn thing, between three women who met up at University. Going into the theatre, I must admit that I had some misgivings about the plot for this play. After all, wasn’t there already that 1995 Drew Barrymore movie called “Boys on the Side” which also featured 3 women, one of whom was a lesbian? But I need not have worried, because although the template is one which has been used before, these are three very different characters with very different life adventures. The writing is so brilliant that within a few minutes of meeting each character, the audience will get to know her intimately, with all of that character’s traits and little foibles. Over the course of two and a half hours, you become very fond of these women and end up caring for each as if they were real life friends. Who among us haven’t had one or more friends who we didn’t like to start with but end up becoming life long friends with? With true friendship, you take the good times and the bad times, you put up with each other’s weaknesses, and emerge at the end of the journey with iron clad, life long bonds. Di and Viv and Rose take you through that process all over again. With little things they say or do on stage, you’ll think to yourself, “I know someone just like that!” Like many reviewers have said before, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry with these women as they go on their journey through life. At the end of the play, you’re left with the feeling that you’d really like to keep in touch with some if not all three women, as if they were real life friends.

The play wouldn’t have worked unless each actress were able to pull her own weight as far as the acting went, and in this regard, Claudie Blakley, Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicola did not disappoint. Claudie, as Rose, has just the right mix of bubbliness and ditziness that makes you want to wrap your arms around her and protect her as if she was some sort of endangered species. Tamzin’s character is gay, and I’m so pleased that the writer, director and probably Tamzin herself, decided to make the character display just enough of a butch side to make the point, but still let the character’s feminine side come through on occasion. It would have been too easy to leave the character two dimensional. Nicola is Viv, a highly repressed woman who spent her childhood with tiger parents cracking the whip and shouting, “try harder, aim higher”. Yep, been there, done that. This is the character I can most identify with and feel sympathy for, and not just because I’m a card carrying fan of hers. If you have only ever known Nicola as “Ruth Evershed” on Spooks, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise because the character she plays here is about as different from “Ruth” as night is from day. This play is a perfect vehicle to showcase the enormous range which Nicolas has, as an actress, and its just pure joy to watch. I will never be able to listen to that Prince song without remembering Nicola in that air guitar playing scene. Lets go crazy, indeed!

The play has a killer soundtrack of 80s music. As far as I can remember, the track list included these songs, in no particular order :

The Cure – Lovecats
Eurythmics – Who’s that Girl
Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding
Style Council – You’re the Best Thing
Kirsty MacColl – A New England
New Order – Blue Monday
Prince – Lets Go Crazy
The Belle Stars – The Clapping Song
Sophia George – Girly Girly
Madonna – Ray of Light

Thanks to Lisa and Diane for help with this track list. If you think that I’ve missed a track or two, or got something wrong, do Email Us and I’ll update the list.

Ed’s Note (21 January 2014) : The Hampstead Theatre has now put the above playlist on Spotify. The is the playlist from the second production of the play which did not feature Nicola or Claudie since Madonna’s Ray of Light and the Style Council’s You’re the Best Thing have been replaced by Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill and The Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes. Check it out HERE.

I’m always happy to listen/watch Nicola read a phone book (you wouldn’t expect me to say anything less, would you), but from now on, I’ll include Claudie and Tamzin in that list. I’d also keep an eye out for more work from Amelia Bullmore (the playwright) and Anna Mackmin (the director).

This play deserves a longer run and in a larger venue. Lets hope that enough interest in the play has been generated by its short run at the Hampstead Downstairs to warrant a transfer to the West End, or better still, further development as either a TV serial or a movie. However, I do worry that if Hollywood were to get its grubby hands on a play like this, they’ll be tempted to recast the parts with marquee names and end up destroying all of the warm and fuzzy bits of the play which made it such a success in the first place.

If you haven’t been able to get a ticket to the show, I would urge you to buy a copy of the play which is currently available from the Hampstead Theatre at £5 each.

If you’re interested in knowing more, click and read the next page.

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