The 2013 production of Amelia Bullmore's comedy about three university friends transfers to the West End with Tamzin Outhwaite reprising her role.
A lot of shit gets thrown at the three main characters in Amelia Bullmore’s play. Friends plonked together in university halls at 18, they connect for life, then forge on together, batting away as best they can every stinking thing flung in their direction.
That, suggests, Bullmore, is the nature of friendship. If you ain’t got each other, then you ain’t got much. In the first half the girls make their first home and bond on Paul Wills’s chaotic, colourful ’80s student house set. The characters aren’t that complex, but they are likeable: Di (Tamzin Outhwaite) is the sporty lesbian, Viv (Samatha Spiro) the uptight preachy sociologist and Rose (Jenna Russell) is sexually voracious, a good cook and very, very kind. Ditsy Rose, with her floaty skirts and her constantly sore vagina, is hilarious, and the scene where the girls dance manically to Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’ is just one of several that are pretty darn funny.
So far, so ‘Friends’; but where the play thankfully differs from the world of TV sitcoms is that we get to see the characters’ contrasts. Friendship, this play suggests, is something you have to work at. Hard. In their third year something terrible happens to Di; and then, as they head off into the Real World, life gets super-hardcore.
The second half is a barrage of bad stuff, and although we have spent a lot of time – perhaps too much – with them in the early ’80s, the characters aren’t developed enough to make the life-changing events anything other than clunky plot-drivers. Bullmore’s light-touch dialogue is witty and smart, but the characters jump from flighty uni students to mothers, lovers and workers all too quickly. These characters don’t transform enough over the years for us to fully believe what they say by the end.
There are three really lovely, watchable performances from Outhwaite, Spiro and Russell though. They make the relationships feel real and the play radiate with warmth. The cast tap into the warm but never sentimental heart of ‘Di and Viv and Rose’, making this a tale that will send you straight out into the night wanting a cuddle with your BFF.