Review of Di and Riv and Rose by Theo Spring, 25 June 2018.
Performed at Theatre 62, West Wickham, from 25-30 June 2018
As is eruditely pointed out in the programme notes endorsing female friendships in literature, Amelia Bullmore’s play brings a modern take on the enduring friendship between three girls of very diverse characters.
As is only clear from the closing scenes, it seems to have been kind, ebullient and rather promiscuous Rose who threaded the three university friends together in their house share. Viv is the studious, brainy one, aiming for a first class degree, Di, a lesbian, is sporty but unsure of her way forward and Rose, who sleeps around, who cooks, who cares and soon loses any career prospects when she gives birth to twins from who knows which of eight possible fathers.
The casting for the three seemed perfect. Laura Gamble’s Viv was prim, proper and, with one delightful exception, un-giving, again until a final reveal. Diane Carters’ Di gave lesbian dating problems both humour and angst and Rachel Cormican’s Rose was warm, funny, affectionate to her friends and the mainstay of the trio’s friendship.
So much was good about this production. Spanning the period from 1983 when the girls first met at university, to 2010 when they are worldly-wise women, an overhead screen led the audience through the time scale with additional clues given through their changes in costume. Music played a prominent role with tracks from the various years. There was one spectacular musical eruption when all three let go with exuberant well-choreographed moves to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now which, played back at the end, after the tale had taken a sad turn, revived the joy of their house-sharing time. This playback was just one of many excellent uses of back-projection and images in the hands of Jon Lewis and technical co-ordinator Ian James, all seamlessly delivered. The demands of a set requiring, amongst others, a corridor in university halls complete with old-fashioned pay phone, a main set of the student’s living area, an apartment in New York and a café on the concourse of a busy train station were so well met by set designer Alan Matthews where ingenuity was copiously used. Costumes were changed with rapidity, as demanded by the change of year (s) and here Wardobe Mistress Diana Quinn and her team had input from the cast from their own wardrobes. On a very hot June night, my sympathy went out to Laura Gamble as Viv, in her thick black winter coat. The delivery of what was certainly a high calibre production does not come without dedicated and enthusiastic collaboration from a wide group of personnel. The programme bears witness to many of the names involves and, as always with such productions, there was likely input from un-named helpers too.
Director Howard James can only have been thrilled with the way his ‘girls’ interpreted their roles and most certainly did both him and Theatre 62 proud. The play was new to me – I was very pleased to make its acquaintance and, should it come my reviewing way again, I doubt I shall see it better performed.