Di & Viv & Rose illustrates the power of friendship through wit, heart and 80s nostalgia

Di (Julia Vosnakis), Viv (Georgia Laity) and Rose (Isabel Vanhakartano) remind us that in this life, if you have a couple of besties with you – for the good, the bad and the sad – then you are set. (Image: Rumpus Theatre)

By Viki Ntafillis | @viki_ntaf

Di & Viv & Rose, written by Amelia Bullmore and presented by The Corseted Rabbits Collective, follows the story of three friends who meet at university and take on life’s trials and tribulations together. The show’s salient line “if something bad or sad or good happens to one of you, it almost happens to the other” is rendered  its core message by director Rachel Burke. The actresses’ performance shows real heart, whether the characters are finding their groove as a trio or are beginning to drift apart at various stages of their lives.

The show opens in Manchester, 1983. Di, a sport-loving lesbian studying business, befriends Viv, a sociology student living in the same group of student flats. Di becomes the glue for the trio by officially introducing Viv to Rose, a free-spirited, hypersexual art history student. The trio decide to move in together, living out their university days in the house they fondly refer to as “Mossbank”. Together they brave the challenges thrown at them not just by their crushing uni schedules, but by life.

The actresses’ approach reflects the theme of friendship present throughout the show. Their dialogue is witty, garnering quite a few laughs from the audience. It is also raw at times, although this is complemented by the actresses’ sincerity. Their facial expressions and body language remain open and descriptive throughout; so whether it is a moment of sarcasm or a fight, even the harshest words are delivered with an underlying love. The audience can detect how the actresses use these elements as building blocks to create vulnerability and transparency between the three women; it is from this that the strength of their friendship is derived.

The directive decisions made illustrate the idea that in solid friendships, one’s compassion for their friends makes them feel the pain their friend is experiencing. Expressed through the director’s take on 80s nostalgia, the music used screams of youth; an undeniable highlight of the show. Creative mash-ups between the likes of Madonna, Simon & Garfunkel, Rick Astley and Prince provide a happy-go-lucky atmosphere that reverberates through the theatre, sparking a feeling of serendipity that is contagious. The audience becomes eager to hear which ingenious mash-up will propel them into the next phase of the girls’ adventure. Discordantly, in times of adversity, the music either becomes sombre or disappears altogether. Here, Bullmore reminds us that no matter what age we are, true friends feel their friends’ suffering keenly.

The director’s reliance on a minimalistic mise-en-scène is also useful to prevent detracting from the characters’ lives. Bullmore clearly wishes to demonstrate that our love for our friends is always paramount to materialistic possessions and desires. The selection of Rumpus also lends to the performance. An intimate setting, the audience is capped at four rows with the front two being level with the stage. Bullmore uses the theatre’s side-door throughout the play as a kind of front door to the Mossbank house, or as a gateway between connection and disconnection in the women’s lives. Overall, the audience senses they are not only watching the friendship of these dynamic young women unfold, but are ever-present in their lives; whether they are in Mossbank or New York. This immersion almost renders the audience the gang’s fourth friend, which makes for an exhilarating and emotional experience.

At the show’s conclusion, it is difficult to pull oneself back into the 21st century. The consolation, however, is that you at least feel you have been part of this tight-knit group of friends for a short while. The direction, characterisation and technical features of this show not only portray how good friends are a blessing, but also the joy we feel when we ourselves are good friends. It implores us to appreciate those we hold nearest, and perhaps most importantly, consider what more we could do to honour these people.

Di & Viv & Rose is showing at Rumpus Theatre until July 24.

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