BGT’s annual “summer project”, which features plays with an all-female cast, has produced some superb theatre over the last few years. But the current show, Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose, tops them all.
A series of vignettes that span the 20-plus years of the friendship between three female college students, the play takes Di and Viv and Rose on a journey from quick-fire rapport to slow-burn discord and back to heart-warming harmony via comic set-pieces and sudden tragedy.
Lina Peller plays Rose, a bubbly, spontaneous and “annoying” art history student with an unbridled enthusiasm for life, exotic cooking and boys. She is first seen on the phone to her mother just after her stepfather Charly, an important but unseen character, has dropped her off at university. At the phone, Rose bumps into Viv (Céline Planata), a driven and hard-working sociology student who “dresses like it’s the war” and takes life maybe a bit too seriously. RachelKathryn Lloyd is Di, Rose’s sporty, lesbian flatmate with an unrequited crush on a red-haired pixie of a girl.
Rose jumps at the chance when Charly offers to buy a house as an investment for her to live in while at university and wants Di to join her. Despite the acrimonious start to their relationship, Rose also offers Viv a room in the house because, she tells Di, “she’s what we need”.
Thus begins what turns out to be a beautiful friendship between the three girls.
Bullmore deftly captures the shifting dynamics of the household, with the pragmatic and savvy Di often playing the role of peacemaker between the liberated and sometimes ditzy Rose and the studious and prematurely mature Viv.
Each actor is in the form of their, still young, life. Peller, who has been centre-stage in the last two summer shows, Sherry Kramer’s David’s Redhaired Death and Stephanie Ridings’ The Road To Huntsville, is again a superbly strong anchor on stage. Her Rose is vivacious and vulnerable, capable of forgetting to do the laundry one minute and then taking a life-changing decision with startling aplomb the next.
Planata has matured beautifully since she played multiple roles in the first of the summer shows, Joel Horwood’s Wolves Are Coming For You, three years ago. The audience totally believes the sometimes uptight and awkward Viv becomes a successful woman of substance in New York. And her anguish during a key exchange with Di towards the climax of the play is truly gut-wrenching.
As Di, Lloyd has perhaps the most challenging role. She is, unwittingly, the fulcrum of the student house as she balances the opposing energies of Viv and Rose. Then she becomes the focal point of a dramatic event that changes everything. Once again Lloyd delivers a performance of natural charisma that draws the audience in--we root for Di when she goes after her crush, we suffer with her during moments of tragedy and we empathise with her internal battles.
Tony and Ferelith Kingston have done a superb job in directing the play, eliciting plenty of laughs and tears and keeping the narrative flowing through numerous scene changes. Their clever use of music to define the time-line--from Spandau Ballet’s Gold all the way through to Oasis’s Don't Look Back in Anger--is essential, as apart from the fashion and the use of landline and then brick-like mobile phones, there is little in the script to inform us of the period.
Di and Viv and Rose is another admirable accomplishment for BGT and evidence that Tony Kingston’s commitment to developing female theatrical talent is paying off in spades.
Di and Viv and Rose is on at Neimënster on Friday 30 September and Saturday 1 October at 7.30pm. Tickets from the Neimënster website.