BEFORE Amelia Bullmore wrote ‘Di, Viv and Rose’ she was better known as an actress appearing as long-term characters in the nation’s favourite soap ‘Coronation Street’ and the award winning crime series ‘Scott and Bailey’.
Watching this play at the Crescent Theatre it seems a pity that she left it so long before she decided to put pen to paper. Indeed, she offers up the rare and glorious opportunity of three meaty parts for women which this Crescent company trio grab with both hands.
Unashamedly there is more than a nod by Bullmore towards Pam Gems’ 1976 acclaimed ‘Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi’; it too concerns female bonding issues – here it is three co-habiting university students and how what happens in this formative part of their relationship is carried with them forever; sometimes as a crutch – sometimes a cross.
The story begins in October 1983 and carries right through to August 2010 – Spanning some 30 years and meaning that three, middle – 40-something actresses have to go back to being starry eyed 18-year-olds waving goodbye to family ties and teenage angst as they prepare to change the world whilst celebrating freedom and casting off of the shackles of convention.
Rose (Katie Merriman) whose stepdad Charlie buys a house for them so that they can move out of their tiny flat, is to put it kindly a ‘free-spirited’ art history student who has sex with any boy she fancies – anywhere– in fact even if she doesn’t fancy them she still has sex! Her two fellow housemates are retro dressing, artistic and serious minded sociology student Viv (Liz Plumpton) and Di (Tiffany Cawthorne) an athletic lesbian taking business studies.
Yes the characters and plot are a little clichéd but such is the warmth that comes across the curtain line in infectious waves from the three actresses and the cleverly crafted journey they take us on, that disbelief is disbanded and replaced with a Cheshire cat smile. Rose may be promiscuous but she is a naively gorgeous one and so funny; Viv’s dedication is almost as large as her talent – she is the mother protector of the trio – whilst Di enjoys the biggest release of her pent of sexuality of all three- she also gets the best line when she says about life after University ‘It’s back to fish on Fridays and not being a lesbian’.
Director Kevin Middleton in addition to enjoying a talented cast is served well by an outstanding set from its designer Keith Harris, which works in perfect harmony with the video projection, created by Kristan Webb and including the illustrations by Malgorzata Dyjak.
So remarkable are some of the transformations that they break out from the confines of a studio production.
I particularly liked the nightclub scene where the girls boozily bopped the night away alongside Prince, the icon that epitomised all things 80s. Jo Thackwray brings perfect layers of time frame movement with her spot-on costume designs.
Middleton certainly knows his craft, paying good attention to the fine brush lines. I loved the disjointedness of the early scenes and the unhurriedness of others – such as allowing long, side – splitting indulgent laughter from the girls which I found myself joining in with whilst thinking ‘that is how I remember some of my happiest memories too’.
To me, Bullmore has written a gem of a script – yes it’s flawed but it’s such a beautiful take on friendship and so well done that it’s nigh on impossible not to like.
Go and judge for yourself – hopefully like me you will come out feeling joyous.
Visit https://www.crescent-theatre.co.uk/theatre-event/?EventID=117131 for more information, times and tickets.
Review by Euan Rose.