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Di and Viv and Rose open The new Katzpace – Review

Di, Viv and RoseIt’s not been that long since Di and Viv and Rose first hit the London stage. The Hampstead Theatre productions of 2011 (Downstairs) and 2013 (Upstairs – that is, their main house) and its later West End transfer, a short run at the Vaudeville in early 2015, will be fresh in the memories of theatre regulars.

This brief revival forms the opening production of the new ‘Katzpace’ in the basement of the Katzenjammers, a ‘Bierkeller’, which I understand to be a German-themed (specifically, Bavarian-themed) bar and restaurant, and this new performance space has a promising future if this show is anything to go by.

The smaller pop-up space does, I have to say, lend itself better to this play than the proscenium arch Vaudeville Theatre auditorium. There’s a marvellous technique used to draw the audience in pretty much immediately, in a description that goes into some detail about what’s in the room in question, even if there’s little actually visible on stage. The audience must therefore pay attention to the words being spoken, and we’re instantly hooked. The show never drags and an awful lot is packed into it, and there’s something beautiful about the trio (the play’s title gives the characters’ names away) living their lives and doing their thing, without the play ever feeling the need to name-check or reference any of the major current affairs of the 1980s. After all, it’s called Di and Viv and Rose, and ‘Di and Viv and Rose’ is what we get.

There may have been some slight first night jitters in the first half. I don’t know who said what to whom in the interval, but there must have been the equivalent of a rallying football coach half-time pep talk; when the cast returned there was a significant step change in poise and confidence. Now, it is entirely possible I’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick – the uncertainty with which the characters as students face the world and challenges of life came across very strongly, compared to the relative resilience displayed post-university. So what I’m taking to be first night nerves could actually be quite the opposite. What I can be more certain of is that there’s definite imagery in the round bottom bowls that make an appearance early on (think mixing bowls, but smaller), empty and all over the place.

The show has a charming and naturalistic feel. For all the humour and light-hearted banter that goes on between these university chums, there are some very meaty and hard-hitting moments. And if the show doesn’t do politics (at least not the parliamentary sort), it does 1980s music, and in some style, filling out the regular scene changes with blasts of chart music from that era. As far from sentimental as can be, it’s a whistle-stop tour through the years, leaving out huge chunks of time and hitting on critical incident after critical incident.

Despite this slightly exhausting approach, there’s much to like in this tight cast. Di (Hester Tallack) is the first to encounter an earth shattering experience, and yet deals with it with a maturity beyond her years.

The play overall gives a most sympathetic exploration of her dealing with the aftermath of a crime against the person. I admit seeing a bit of Viv (Ella Dale) in myself as she veers between being ridiculously composed and equally ridiculously frantic. Bebe Barry does well in portraying a live-and-let-live Rose, bouncing around the stage and being the life and soul of the party.

It’s a lovely play, really, reflecting how much has changed since the 1980s, and at the same time, quite remarkably, highlighting how much has stayed the same, for better or for worse. All close friendships go through blissful times and comparatively bleak periods, and for all the various sources of help and assistance out there, this show emphatically reminds its audiences that there’s nothing that quite matches the supporting hand of a trusted friend and confidante. A very moving piece of theatre.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Dalmatian Theatre Company presents Amelia Bullmore’s acclaimed play ‘Di and Viv and Rose’.
‘Di and Viv and Rose’ is a witty insight into the unlikely friendship of three young women who meet at a Northern university in the vibrant decade of the 1980s.

We discover the huge impact the girls have on each other and simultaneously how it effects their lives as a whole.

“How do we want to live here? I mean, we could come and go and lead separate lives. Or we could really live together.”

FOR 3 PERFORMANCES ONLY :  Sunday 3 April, Monday 4 April and Tuesday 5 April.

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