For the second time in the same week, the commercial theatre has brought a new writer to the West End — after Mark Hayhurst's Taken at Midnight (now at the Haymarket), we now have actress-turned-playwright Amelia Bullmore's Di and Viv and Rose opening at the Vaudeville. But this one has taken a little longer getting there; it began its life at Hampstead Theatre's downstairs space in 2012 before moving to the main house upstairs in 2013.
Now, with Tamzin Outhwaite alone from the original cast newly joined by Jenna Russell and Samantha Spiro, it's a warm-hearted hug of a play that pulses with real tenderness and feeling about female friendship across 27 years, as we follow them from their initial bonding as University undergraduates in 1983 and follow them through life's changes, crises and tragedies.
Though it has a sitcom wit on the surface, deeper feelings (and events) run deeper. And the three stars beautifully convey their characters' quirks, individuality and hurts with an open-hearted generosity and rapport that makes it entirely captivating.
By an intriguing coincidence, the other best play in the West End at the moment is Kevin Elyot's My Night with Reg that chronicles a tale of male friendships over a long period. Running simultaneously now, they are ideal bookends to each other on the importance of the support as well as betrayals friends give to each other.
"Bullmore has written three meaty roles and part of the fun of Anna Mackmin’s sprightly production lies in seeing the actors adjust to the ravages of time. The excellent Jenna Russell dominates the play’s first half by suggesting that Rose’s sexual appetite is an extension of her natural kindness."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
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