Di and Viv and Rose tells the story of friendship between three women who meet at university and grow up together. Following a successful run at the Hampstead Theatre, the show is now in the West End for a limited time, playing at the Vaudeville on the Strand.
Act One is set over the first few years when the girls are eighteen and going through their college years together. We really get to know them as people and see them bond as friends. It is rip-roaringly funny, sweet and honest to what really goes on when teenagers go to university. Sadly, the second act speeds through the next 25 years, barely stopping long enough to appreciate the births, the deaths, laughs and the loves that the girls have experienced, causing the audience to lose empathy for who they were as friends. One of the three actually dies and we are barely told what happened. The three women grow up to lead very different lives and so the story is split into three sections that never really seem to come back together. Perhaps if more time were spent on evolving one character in particular, instead of trying to grow all three characters equally, things could have gelled together more.
The musical interludes are a great way to remind the audience of the era we are going into for the next scene, whilst also allowing the stage to be set. Eighties, nineties and the norties classics like Kate Bush and Madonna help to break up the story. The set design of the first act is perfect. A 1980’s student house with bicycles, wobbly furniture and a hi-fi sound system. Sadly, the second act looks like it has had less time spent on it with very little scenery used apart from some brick walls, which double up for several scenes.
The bizarre part about this play is the way it has been cast. Three wonderful actresses they may be, but for more than half the show, these women are playing teenage girls when they themselves are rather more mature. It confused me as to why younger women weren’t cast in the roles and then dressed to look older in the last third of the show.
Jenna Russell can do no wrong at the moment. She is one of the most popular and well respected actresses the West End has right now after a string of successful shows including Merrily We Roll Along, Urinetown and now Di and Viv and Rose. As Rose, the ditzy, promiscuous of the three friends she exudes innocence and charm with an arty carefree attitude. Tamsin Outhwaite is equally as impressive as Di, the out and proud (to all except her family) lesbian. She’s had some practice in this type of role though, as her last role in Breeders at the St James Theatre she also played a lesbian. She is brilliantly funny, with tomboyish charm and charisma. Samantha Spiro plays Viv and takes the character in her stride. The uptight, teenage girl who dresses like her grandmother, complains too much and knuckles down to her studies, transforms into the most successful of the three women, living a glamourous life in New York. A phoenix rising from the ashes and beautifully played.
Di and Viv and Rose is a good play, well put together and with a brilliant cast. However the story, which starts out so well, becomes muddled and feels rushed leading to an un-fulfilling climax.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Di and Viv and Rose is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 23 May 2015.