Friends for Life: Di and Viv and Rose

If there’s one play in the West End right now that’s guaranteed to make you appreciate your BFF, it’s the new play, Di and Viv and Rose at the Vaudeville Theatre. A story about female friendship that stands the test of time, it’s heart-warming, funny and, at times, pretty emotional.

The play has a cast of three - Tamzin Outhwaite, Samantha Spiro and Jenna Russell, playing (yep, you guessed it), Di, Viv and Rose, three girls who meet at university as eighteen-year-olds. Despite a shaky start and their very different personalities, they soon become friends and move in to a house together. Over the next two years, they do what all uni friends do: they go out, get drunk, argue, make up, have sex, and - occasionally - do some work. And then they leave university, and suddenly, when they’re out in the world, their friendship doesn’t seem quite so secure. The play is a celebration, but also an examination, of their relationship; what was it really based on, and can it survive when real life is introduced into the equation?

What’s brilliant about Amelia Bullmore’s script is that although there are only three actors on stage, somehow the play seems to have a much bigger cast, made up of unseen characters. There’s Charlie, Rose’s stepfather, whose controlling relationship with her leads Rose to crave affection from everyone she meets. There’s Di’s mum, affectionately known as Mrs Di, who showers the friends with treats but still doesn’t know her daughter’s gay. And a multitude of other characters who flit in and out of the girls’ lives, each of them having some influence but none managing to break into the tight-knit circle of their friendship.

The actors are all perfectly cast, and give flawless performances as the three very different friends. Jenna Russell sparkles as the quirky and loveable Rose, the kind of girl who you know is going down a bad path but who does it so charmingly you can’t help but like her. Samantha Spiro is quietly brilliant as the uptight, driven Viv, determined to succeed at any cost. And Tamzin Outhwaite gives possibly the strongest performance as Di, the outwardly tough, sporty lesbian, who turns out to be the most vulnerable of the three.

Set, for the most part, against a backdrop of the 1980s, the play features some classic tunes that transport you back to a time of cassette tapes and leg-warmers. The opening scenes, before the girls move in together, are slightly odd, but only last a few minutes. So if neon boxes and being plunged into darkness every few seconds aren’t your thing, don’t worry - it doesn’t go on for very long.

Di And Viv And Rose is a comedy, and a very funny one. But, much like life, it has a way of throwing in the occasional curveball that literally takes your breath away. The second half is much more emotional than the first (although that also has its moments), and took me completely by surprise; up until then I’d been having a good time, but it’s after the interval that you really start to understand what the play is getting at. You may want to take some tissues. And if you don’t leave the theatre wanting to call up all your friends, just to say hi, you’re a lot tougher than I am.

Liz Dyer

Di And Viv And Rose is currently booking at the Vaudeville Theatre, now through February 26, 2015 save £10 on price band A and B. Discount valid Monday to Thursday performances.

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