Tell Them That I Am Young And Beautiful or the Kathryn Hunter coconut
Good Grief?

Di and Viv and Rose and Stan's thoughts

Di and Viv and Rose at Hampstead Downstairs feels like a breath of fresh air. This new play by Amelia Bullmore follows the lives of three friends who meet at Uni in 1983 and share a house.

The first half concentrates on their three student years together. Viv (Nicola Walker) is serious studious and celibate. Di (Tamzin Outhwaite) is sporty and enjoying the freedom of being out as a lesbian. And Di (Claudie Blakley) is ever kind and considerate but is enjoying being away from her suffocating village home and her depressed mother by sleeping with lots of men.

'If you ask them to go to bed with you they say 'yes''

The second half of the play visits them at various points during the next 24 years.

It is a breath of fresh air because it doesn't feel the need to brow beat or tackle grandiose topics such as capitalism and morality - there has been a bit too much of that in new plays recently.

Its valid because it feels human and personal while still touching on subjects such as lesbianism, promiscuity, aids and rape among others. It doesn't so much comment but show the human impact, almost the ordinariness of trials and tribulations of life. It shows how it shapes and tests friendship which is the heart and warmth of the play. 

And it does it in an entertaining and poignant way without being sentimental. The girls have fun - there is a lot of great 80's pop and dancing in the student days and they also have fears and fall outs.

It's an all woman play without being in your face feminist and is what Top Girls should have been. By shifting the focus onto friendship with the issues of the day becoming what forms them, I think Di and Viv and Rose will have the longer term resonance that Top Girls doesn't have.

There are flaws. Viv feels slightly underdeveloped as a character; you learn a lot more about the other girls family lives and background but not Viv. Her distance and dislike of her parents is never really explained. And Di does feel a little stereotyped at times wearing dungarees and being very sporty.

But these are easily forgiven. The acting is uniformly spot on, the script is witty and the play well paced. And there are some nice theatrical devices. Particularly enjoyed the opening set up sequence when the arrival, initial relationship and how the three ended up in a house together is established by a quick succession of micro scenes, peppered with the music of the time.

Di and Viv and Rose runs until 15 October and I'm going to give it 5 stars.


Claudie Blakley featured here earlier in the Summer when I saw her in The Cherry Orchard and connection with Mr W is that she was also in Bright Star.