Thursday, 12 February 2015

'Di and Viv and Rose' at the Vaudeville Theatre

Last night I was treated to a ticket to see 'Di and Viv and Rose', the new play on at the Vaudeville and I had no idea what it's about. Three women I suppose, but what else? And it features three actresses I've seen on stage before: Tamzin Outhwaite (Di), Samantha Spiro (Viv) and Jenna Russell (Rose). Oddly, I've seen them all in singing roles but there wasn't a song in sight in this production, other than singing along to 'Walk This Way' by Aerosmith and Run DMC.

I've seen Tamzin in 'Sweet Charity' at the Menier Choccy Factory and in 'Boeing Boeing', Jenna in 'Merrily We Roll Along' at the Choccy and in 'Sunday in the Park with George' at Studio 54 on Broadway, and Samantha in the concert version of 'Merrily We Roll Along' to celebrate Sondheim's birthday and in 'Twelfth Night' with Derek Jacobi. And together, I must say, they are great.

It's the age-old story of growing up and being 'besties' (in today's tortuous jargon), sharing their young lives, hopes and dreams and then seeing what happens. So, the first half of the play is set in the early 80s where they all meet up as students and share a house. Di is a lesbian, Viv is a feminist swot and Rose just wants to have fun with as many boys as she can manage. They're not great friends initially but after they move into the house together that Rose's stepfather buys as an investment, we watch their relationships develop and deepen.

One gets raped and they rally round, one gets pregnant and they rally round. That's what friends do, they rally round. We see their evolving friendship in the first half and the second half sees them growing up and older, from one having children and one moving to New York to realise her dreams, to the harsher realities of life in the '90s and '00s. The first shock comes when Rose dies suddenly (and I really didn't see that coming). She's the calm centre that holds Di and Viv together and the centre of their memories. Rose brought them together in the first place and now she's gone - how will the friends stay together, especially when one lives in New York? It's all about memories.

In the final scene Di and Viv talk about still seeing Rose - her hair, her arms but never her face - the friend they lost too young with their shared memories. No one of them 'owns' those memories, they're all shared. Relationships are strained and there's no telling what might happen… until it happens. But I won't spoil it.

There's a great soundtrack to the play as well, mostly women (as is appropriate). Eurythmics, Bellestars,  Kirsty MacColl, Madonna and more. The music punctuates the scenes and the changing years. The sparse set (after the clutter of the student house) says 'look at me', focus on me and what I'm saying - or not saying.

The play particularly resonated with me since I was a student in the early '80s and shared a house with two friends. My reality being mirrored by this play - or at least some of the elements. There was me, Mark and Mike sharing a terraced house in Cardiff, growing up together for two years, two long years of starting to become the people we became. Mike sadly died and he was the sort of Rose figure, the one in the middle that linked us all. I hadn't thought about Mike and Mark for years until I saw the play and the memories came flooding back. I was at Mike's funeral but I've lost touch with Mark. After all these years he might've been in the same audience for this play and I possibly wouldn't recognise him.  

There are laugh out loud moments (a lot of them), big grin moments and moments of thoughtful quiet in this play. The women gel most effectively, demonstrating the fun and the niggles of being young and living away from home for the first time, using the freedom to explore in different ways. And it works, it's believable and real. It's a delight and great fun and you should go and see it! Now!

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