Review - Di and Viv and Rose

Di and Viv and Rose is a show that I probably wouldn't have considered seeing if it weren't for the generosity of, whose 'Ticket Tuesday' twitter competition I was fortunate enough to have won.

The synopsis which can be read here promises a 'hilarious and heartwarming' story by Amelia Bulmore about the ups and downs in the friendship of 3 students who share a house together at uni, as they grow up and go their separate ways. The bubbly synopsis, accompanied by images of the 3 main characters, dressed in pastels and smiling cheerfully, suggests lighthearted fun and honestly, taking my seat I was expecting nothing more than a few laughs and some fluffy escapism, which is exactly what I got...for the uni-centric first act. But it's act 2, in the years that follow the alcohol and marrow fat pea filled student life, that this heart wrenching play really starts to resonate!
Honestly, this play was really affecting for me. As a young person currently studying at uni, I could laugh along with a lot of the absurd hilarity that sprung from typical student life. I've never had to stick a BluTack ring to the bottom of a semispherical bowl in order to make it usable, as the resourceful Viv did, but I have had to fashion many a wedge out of newspaper in order to stabilize tables, wardrobes, you name it in my own student house! It;s the delightful, little details like this that any uni student past or present can relate to that really gives the play it's humor. But make no mistake, it's not all laughs and pop culture references from the last century! The play has real heart, and really hit home for me. Watching the three friends overcome distance, illness and other commitments, just to keep their friendship alive as the decades slide away from them was really touching and really made me think about my own friends, and how it's so much easier today, with skype and facebook and mobile phones, to keep in touch with one another wherever we are, as opposed to the struggles that Di and Viv and Rose must go through just to catch up with one another for a few hours after they move away from one another.

It wasn't only the characters experiences that I related to either, but their very personalities. I guarantee every member of the audience saw themselves in at least one of the characters. Be it Di (Tamzin Outhwaite), a strong, sporty, sarcastic young woman, very comfortable with her sexuality and trying to impress a girl that she likes, despite the problems that stand in her way. Viv (Samantha Spiro), a somewhat uptight, studious feminist constantly dressed like 'it's the war' and determined to get what she wants, no matter what. Or Rose (Jenna Russell), a bubbly glue which holds the group together, enjoys cooking and looking at 'beautiful things', and manages to sleep her way around the entire university, all while dressed in the clothes that a 9 year old of today might be seen sporting! The characters were individual, unique, relatable and never stereotypical. It was refreshing to see to say the least.

And of course, the cast was remarkable. Every time Jenna Russell opened her mouth, you couldn't help but smile! She gave Rose the perfect balance of childish nativity and witty 'house-mom' worldliness that really endeared her to the audience. Tamzin Outhwaite had a smile that lit up the room and when she spoke a particularly emotional monologue half way through act 2, you could have heard a penny drop in the Vaudeville. But it was the stoic Samantha Spiro that really grabbed my attention. Firstly, her character was the one I saw myself in the most, secondly, she played her character so dryly that you found yourself waiting for her next stroke of veiled sarcastic genius, and thirdly, the way she portrayed her character through the years was truly amazing. So much so that while her character at the end became somewhat unlikable, I still found myself rooting for her! In fact, after one uncharacteristic outburst where she rants and cries about how special the trio's relationship was, I almost felt that an applause was needed then and there. She was breathtaking!  Not to mention the fact that her character's vintage wardrobe was simply enviable. The set was also remarkably different. From the intimacy of the student's living area to the grandeur of a swanky New York apartment, I was continually wowed. In fact the minimalist yet impressive production elements were one of the most notable elements of the whole show.

So all in all, Di and Viv and Rose was a pleasing, fun, but at points heart wrenching two and a half hours. The cast is energetic, the story is full of surprising twists and turns and the script is full of wit and sarcasm. An inspiring play that will leaving wishing you called your friends more often!

Verdict - 3 1/2 Stars

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