Di & Viv & Rose
by Amelia Bullmore
Maskers Studio Theatre
17 - 21 May 2016

At 7:30pm.

(note: Contains adult themes and strong language)


The Reviews


Tuesday 17th May

I would urge you not to miss this production by Maskers Theatre Company, but that wouldn’t be constructive as it is already sold out completely for its whole run and could not be more deservedly so! This play has somehow gone under my theatre radar and actually I am glad about that: it has a few knock-out moments dramatically which, if you already knew the plot, would lose some of their enormous impact.

Each of the three actors is so good that it would be invidious to single any one out but maybe the character of Viv, an emotionally sterile academic, is the least sympathetic and the last to reveal herself. To her great acting credit, as Leah Barlow unravels the complexity and vulnerability of this character, we cease to judge her and come to care for her every bit as much as her two housemates.

Rose, played by Kristina Wilde, is initially engaging, ebullient and exhausting. Her naivety, her sexual voraciousness and crudity are portrayed hilariously. She is a cuddly, irrepressible bundle of fun, bouncing around the stage, legs in the air, sore bum tenderly perched on the sofa (don’t ask!). It is impossible not to fall for those big wide eyes and strident but perfectly articulated vowels.

Di, on the other hand, played by Ruth Kibble, has a slight north country accent. She seems to come from a more conventional background than the others. No wonder, perhaps, that she has needed the freedom of the university campus to come out as lesbian. She strides athletically from one side of the stage to the other but no amount of sweaty posturing can conceal her need for love. It is cruel indeed that she who seems the most honest of all is the most hurt of all.

The play is about friendship, how it is formed, how it is tried and tested and survives, and this is a perennial subject but it also has an historical sweep to it. It starts in 1983 and finishes in 2010. Superb use is made of the pop music relevant for these successive years, incidentally producing some absolutely brilliant dance routines from the three friends. Such talent! But on a more sober note, victims of rape were treated with such insensitivity some thirty years ago and there is still way to go there. It is good to read about Southampton Rape Crisis help in the programme.

It is good on the big picture but good also in the small detail. Telephone models change as the years go by, the backdrop to the provincial railway station is perfect, the dappled green leaves and blue sky of the last scene are subtly moving. The physical focus of the acting makes judicious use of all the stage; the direct address to the audience, not to each other, whenever two of the characters have a telephone conversation miles and miles apart works well. The lighting changes constantly but so smoothly you hardly notice. I am told technical rehearsals were run for four consecutive days. That clearly paid off!

At the start of this play, I realised I was sitting next to Paul Green, the director. At the interval I asked him how he felt. ‘Over the moon,’ he replied. At the end of the play, with most of the audience on their feet, he should have felt he had gone to the far side of the galaxy and back.

- Mary Ann Evans

Daily Echo

Amelia Bullimore's play follows nearly 30 years in the fortunes and friendship of the three title characters, who meet when starting college together in the mid 1980s. Vivid costumes and hits of the era draw us into the period, while a series of mostly very short scenes, often with a deft comedic touch, engage us in the relationship of these college girls, in a manner which the audience relate to very warmly. Director Paul Green's cast play very well together - Ruth Kibble as Di, eager to establish herself as a rebel and lesbian, but keenly aware of the repressive influences at home waiting to trip her up, Leah Barlow as the ambitious Viv, sometimes snooty but in many ways most in need of the others' supportive friendship, and Kristina Wilde, in a particularly memorable performance, as Rose - foolish and feckless but irresistibly warm and enthusiastic.

- Ham Quentin

Winchester Today

Wednesday 18th May

Funny & Intimate & Poignant… might also be an apt title for this interesting and entertaining play by Amelia Bullmore (recently seen in TV’s Happy Valley and Scott & Bailey). Set in the 1980s and spanning three decades, three – very different – girls meet at university, share a house for those informative years and learn first hand how beautiful, but perilous, true friendship can be.

Take one sporty lesbian, add an intense and slightly strange lass who wears what appear to be ‘wartime clothes’ and is determined to get a first class honours degree in sociology, and finally mix in a scatty, bubbly extrovert who is there to have fun, see how many men she can sleep with and who ends up with twins borne of a Japanese father. You start to get the drift.

Hilarious in parts, equally shocking and sad in others, this roller coaster ride takes you on the journey of the girls’ first meeting, through their student house-sharing days at ‘Mossbank’, to what they become some twenty years later; how those growing-up, halcyon days turn a bit nasty on occasions but through it all their friendship shapes their lives indelibly. All three girls have vaguely dysfunctional families to escape from and are innocently oblivious to how their backgrounds may affect their adult lives. Di & Viv & Rose, played with true emotion and wonderful timing by Ruth Kibble, Leah Barlow and Kristina Wilde respectively, deal with some thorny issues – how to divvy up the house expenses, who is to cook and mend, whose turn it is to go to the launderette, how to woo that elusive lover. And then rape, failed and unfulfilled ambitions and even death. The play takes you on an intimate journey (and it doesn’t get more intimate than the Maskers Studio Theatre where you have to uncross your legs to allow the actors to get past you) and you become part of the story. It is an ideal choice for a small studio production because it draws you right into the action in a way that would never be possible on a big stage.

These Three Never Faltered.

Acting in such a confined space demands a special kind of talent – every blink is captured, every freckle counted, you can’t put a foot wrong or it will show, close-up. Just being able to ignore an audience a couple of feet away is difficult enough but these three girls never faltered through what is a fairly wordy and lengthy play. Timing is everything and was perfect; the silence, the pauses, can be as important as the words and the characterisations never slipped.

Lighting and sound, including projected images and captions to tell us where and when we were, bordered occasionally on the slightly flaky but did the job well. I would have liked to hear a little more background noise of a busy train station and the multiple scene changes took some getting used to – some required a lot of imagination, some none at all – but all in all it all worked well.

But there is no doubt that the three actors brought this piece to life, along with Paul Green the director, who has a reputation for trying out ‘different’ stuff and who goes all-out to get 100% out of his cast and script.

Bravo, Maskers, a tricky and brave production that left the audience emotionally exhausted, but really glad they came.

- David Cradduck

A funny and thoughtful look at...
friendship’s impact on life...
...and life’s impact on friends.

The Author

Amelia Bullmore studied Drama at Manchester University. Having started out as an actress, she began writing in 1995 and continues to do both. Her first stage play, Mammals, had an extended sell-out run at the Bush Theatre in April 2005 and a successful national tour in 2006. It was also co-winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and shortlisted for the What's On Best New Comedy Award. Her adaptation of Ibsen's Ghosts premiered at the Bush Theatre in 2009. Di and Viv and Rose premiered at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in 2012, transferred Upstairs in 2013, and then to the West End in 2015.

Bullmore wrote two episodes of the second series of This Life for World/BBC2, and devised the series Black Cab for World/BBC2, writing three of the episodes. She wrote two episodes of the first series of Attachments, also for World/BBC2. She was a Dennis Potter Award Finalist in 2000 for her original 90-minute drama, The Middle.

Director & Cast

The Director

Paul Green

Paul has been acting and directing with various companies in the Southampton area for nearly 40 years. Paul joined Maskers in 2014 and has already directed two shows for them. His acting credits include an Italian waiter in Betrayal and Akela the wolf in The Jungle Book, last year's Hamptworth show. He is delighted to be directing in the Studio again, which he feels is an ideal setting for Di and Viv and Rose. Paul's background is in physical theatre and he hopes this has helped him to add extra depth to the production. He is delighted to be working with Ruth, Leah and Kristina , whom he enjoyed acting with in Jungle Book and he is looking forward to seeing their combined energy light up this thought-provoking comedy.

The Cast (In order of appearance)

Rose played by Kristina Wilde
This is Kristina's second outing with Maskers, and first time ever that she's played a girl. She has played a singing cat, a blind male seer, and Henry IV. Then she joined Maskers, and played Mowgli in last year's run of The Jungle Book. At 26, playing a girl was becoming a bit of a pipedream. Luckily, Di and Viv and Rose is a perfect place to start. Rose is a fearless character. Her full-on approach to her new friends, her frequently hilarious dialogue, and her sometimes tricky path to becoming an adult combine to make a character who is both a gift and a challenge. Her giggling, zest and warmth light up the pages of the play. They will, with any luck, do the same in the Studio. Kristina would like to reassure everyone that, despite playing a girl for the first time, she thinks she will be pretty good at it.

Viv played by Leah Barlow
It is rare to come across any play in which the female characters are not traditionally love interests, older “wise women” or generally described as waif-like and petite; so as a 6ft tall marathon runner, Leah struggles to find parts that she “looks right” for and can sink her teeth into. So when Di and Viv and Rose was announced, she was instantly excited and eager to be involved. Leah identifies with aspects of all three of the characters in the play (both good and bad) and hopes the audience will find them equally relatable. Viv is both familiar and a challenge to Leah in different ways, and she has worked hard to do justice to the complexity and vulnerability of Viv, in her biggest acting role to date.

Di played by Ruth Kibble
To get into character for this play, Ruth thought back to her own experience at university - shared houses, meal plans, organising people's social lives...she was really more of a Rose than a Di! That said, the shared experience of entering adulthood while being stretched academically and challenged in every way left her with friendships that have lasted over a decade and without which she'd be lost.
It isn't often you find a play available to non-professional companies that is not only modern and fresh, but which focuses entirely on the stories of women. Ruth, Leah and Kristina have spent time during and between rehearsals discussing the dynamics of the characters in the play, and those of women in theatre generally, and it is Ruth's true pleasure to find in Di aspects of her own personality that aren't often expressed on stage.

Creative Team

Production Manager
Chris Baker
Stage Manager
Robert Osborne
Assistant Stage Manager
Emma James
Set Design
Paul Green & Adam Taussik
Lighting Designer
Eric Petterson & Paul Green
Sound Design
Paul Green, Nick Longland & Jamie McCarthy
Costume Design & Wardrobe
Sheana Carrington & Marie McDade
Adam Taussik
Lighting Operator
Eric Petterson & Emma James
Sound Operator
Mike Matthias
Set Construction
Peter Hill, Adam Taussik & Tony Kibble
Lighting Consultant
Clive Weeks

Ticket Information

Tickets £9.50

No concessions

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

Technical Manager:- Jamie McCarthy; Marketing Director:- Ruth Kibble; Marketing Team:- Sarah Russell, Angela Stansbridge, Leah Barlow, James Norton, Clive Weeks; Front of House Manager:- Chris Baker; Front of House Display:- Leah Barlow; Box Office Manager:- Chris Baker; Photography:- Clive Weeks; Bar Manager:- Leah Barlow
Image Gallery
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Established 1968

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