Di and Viv and Rose

Posted : 1 October 2011


The Hampstead Downstairs theatre looks more like a rehearsal room than your traditional theatre. There is no raised stage. If you manage to sit in the front row, you will be on the same level as the “stage” and thisclose to the actresses as they prance around on stage. It is a testament to the three actresses’ skills that as soon as Claudie Blakley delivered the first line of this play, I forgot that I was watching a play in a smallroom but was transported to another world. Beyond the front row, seating is on a tiered structure, with each row high enough from the row immediately in front of it so that you won’t have to worry about your view being blocked by overweight or taller members of the audience, or women with beehives. This is such a low budget production that the actresses have to bring on and arrange their own props as the play progresses, but this is always done in a natural and unobtrusive way and it works!

About 60% of the theatre space is taken up by seating for the audience. This leaves a rather “shallow” main stage area where all the action has to take place. On one of the nights I went to watch this play, I was lucky enough to be given a short tour of the backstage area by Nicola, together with 3 other fans who were also there that evening. Beyond what the audience can see as the “front of house” stage area are two narrow corridors. The first is a passageway which doubles as the “kitchen” for the characters and which allows the three actresses to make entrances from different sides of the stage from time to time. Beyond this narrow passageway is a small dressing room which is shared by all three actresses. And that’s about it.

I asked Nicola how she came to be involved with this production. She said, “I auditioned for Anna and Ameilia on the Monday and was offered the part of Viv on the Friday. Nice and straightforward, which is rare.”

Nicola is very good friends with all of her cast mates from Spooks and other plays she has worked on in the past. They are known to attend each other’s plays if one of them is on stage. One night, I spotted Benjamin Wong in the audience. Benjamin was “Kai” in episode 904 of Spooks and was also in that Law and Order : UK episode in which Nicola had made a guest appearance, though she did not have any scenes with Benjamin in either of those shows. On another night, I spotted Brendan Coyle and Lesley Sharp in the audience. As we know from the write-up on The Dead Eyed Boy on this fansite, in particular, the interview which Brendan gave to Whats On Stage, Brendan is an honorary member of the Nicola Walker fan club. Lesley Sharp has worked on a number of stage and audio projects with Nicola in the past, though they have not yet worked together on screen. So the question had to be asked, will Peter Firth be coming to see the show? After all, Peter has been known to attend most plays which Nicola has done in the past. Here’s what we were told :

“Should I come and see the play? What’s it about?” Peter asked Nicola. “Its three women crying and screaming on stage!” replied Nicola. Then, adopting a very entertaining Peter Firth impression, Nicola delivered Mr Firth’s response, “Oh darling, perhaps not then.” Shame. He would have loved the play. It is so much more than a chick play!

flowers for Nicola from the fansite

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