Last week I was invited to a performance of ‘Di and Viv and Rose’, the latest play to be staged in the theatre-in-the-round this summer at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre.
I have to say, at first, I was a little bit apprehensive, mainly because I wasn’t too sure what to expect. This run of performances is the regional premiere of the production, however, it is this kind of new writing that the Stephen Joseph Theatre company is so well known for.
This little bit of self-reassurance was all that I needed to go and absorb myself into the drama, sheltered from a wet August night.
Written by actress Amelia Bullmore (seen in ‘Scott and Bailey’ and ‘Happy Valley’) and directed by Lotte Wakeham (who worked on last year’s summer season at the theatre), the performance told the story of a trio of women who meet at university in 1983. Despite being the polar opposites of each other, their lives soon collide into a beautiful friendship spanning thirty years, through happiness and tragedy. The three characters are played by Polly Lister (who shone in ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’, but now plays Di, a lesbian Business student who is the first to experience tragedy in the play), Grace Cookey-Gam (Viv, an ambitious sociology student) and Margaret Cabourn- Smith (Rose, who is carefree, impulsive and loving).
These characters, although they are very stereotypical (maybe a little too much so for my taste), the actors perform them in a relatable way; I left the theatre after the show thinking ‘wow, I really think I am the ‘Viv’ in my group of three friends’. I imagine that the performance left many audience members feeling like that too. Although they hadn’t been through the precise experiences that the characters had endured, they did share the relationship with their friends that they had gained from an experience that has changed their lives.
The journey of the story is full of twists and turns, grabbing the attention of the audience at any possible moment – an emotional rollercoaster in its truest form. Despite this, in my opinion, there are some issues in the placing of the plot, especially in Act One.
Personally, I think that certain moments of tension are lost or brushed past, however they are recovered and redeemed for after the interval. Overall, the actors provide joy and warmth as well as intense moments when you least expect them, which drew the audience into the relationship between the characters.
To reflect the decades that the play spans across, it is packed full of nostalgia, most of which is provided Frankie Bradshaw (Design), Jason Taylor (Lighting Design) and Paul Stear (Sound Design). Now, despite the fact that I am only seventeen and ‘shouldn’t appreciate’ the nostalgia that the designers and technicians create as I wasn’t alive for most of the play’s timeline, the use of sound and costume particularly creates a retro feel that makes me want to jump into a time machine and travel back to when the friendship between the characters was forged. Like ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’, the soundtrack of play really helps to tell the story as it specifies the year in which the scene is set, as well as keeping the attention of the audience during scene changes. From Culture Club to Kylie, The Bangles, Backstreet Boys and Bryan Adams, there is something for everyone in this cleverly constructed sound design.
Tender, thrilling and tear-jerking, Di and Viv and Rose is a beautiful story that celebrates everything about friendship - the good, the bad and the ugly, even more so if you see it with your own nearest and dearest.
Di and Viv and Rose continues to run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre until Saturday August 26