DI AND VIV AND ROSE To 23 February.


by Amelia Bullmore.

Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 23 February 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm & Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 5 Feb (+ transcribed post-show discussion).
Captioned 16 Feb 3pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).

TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 January.

Seriously exhilarating play and production.
As soon as this witty, humane, splendidly performed play finishes its Hampstead run, it should be re-scheduled as soon as possible. And, with the kind of irony playwright Amelia Bullmore uses judiciously throughout her story, Hampstead’s Downstairs space, where this play was first seen (also directed by Anna Mackmin), could revive Pam Gems’ 1976 :Dusa, Fish, Stas & Vi, an earlier Hampstead hit – showing two generational views of women in a society where their expectations are changing.

Bullmore begins in 1983, as a friendship falteringly forms between three new undergraduates. In the first of several telling uses of objects, queuing for the payphone helps get them talking. With the malleability of university life their different personalities form a deep friendship, while as part of the luck inherent in Rose’s naïve hedonism they have a house provided. Rose’s contribution to the triple alliance contrasts Viv’s serious wit, as in her feminist history of the corset (a garment Rose adopts for her own purpose), and Di’s terse practicality as someone openly lesbian everywhere but back home.

One of Bullmore’s incidental achievements is giving reality to unseen people. Then there’s the cast’s expert scene-changing. The one time-consuming change is deliberate, as they set up camp in the living-room on three adjacent mattresses. It’s a response to one of the major shocks in their lives, each surprise introduced without warning or any sense of false excitement.

After the interval the trio advance towards middle-age. Life assaults them and mutual support collapses when one suddenly disappears. Our own lives seem to absorb the sudden jolts of events, so well is the play written, so fully-realised the portrayals of an effervescent Anna Maxwell Martin, brooding Gina McKee and brisk, yet fundamentally emotional Tamzin Outhwaite.

It’s more than the words; early on, in an outburst of dionysiac energy similar to the momentary joy of Brian Friel’s Mundy sisters dancing at Lughnasa, the three start dancing. It’s paralleled by a darker silent scene in the second act. But as Paul Wills’ set closes in to recreate their old room, it’s right that joyous outburst should introduce the curtain-call.

Rose: Anna Maxwell Martin.
Viv: Gina McKee.
Di: Tamzin Outhwaite.

Director: Anna Mackmin.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Simon Baker.
Composer: Paul Englishby.
Choreographer: Scarlett Mackmin.
Assistant designer: Adrian Gee.

2013-01-24 13:46:01

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