Review: Di and Viv and Rose by Amelia Bullmore, at Hampstead Theatre

di&viv&roseposterSome plays are like old friends. They don’t try to dazzle you, or overwhelm you. They get under your skin tenderly and quietly. They tease memories and melodies. Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose, as directed by Anna Mackmin for the Hampstead theatre, is such a play.

Which is not to say it is quiet or timid. The story starts with three young women experiencing university life for the first time. And no teenage girl has ever been quiet. The production is full of noise and music and late night energy. It talks about the truths – true loves, true laughter, true fights – we discover when we let our guard down.

The play impresses with its simplicity. Three women meet, become friends, laugh a lot, spend the next twenty years shaping each other’s lives. And then you realise the play is a rarity: Continue reading

Review: The Judas Kiss at the Hampstead Theatre

Freddie Fox as Bosie, Cal MacAninch as Robbie and Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde.

The Judas Kiss, a play written in 1998 about a story more than a hundred years ago, gets a revival at the Hampstead theatre and although the production doesn’t try any new tricks, the experience is full blooded and rich, the performances first rate. The play recounts two significant events in Oscar Wilde’s life: his decision not to flee London when his arrest was imminent and his break up from Bosie (or Lord Alfred Douglas) a few years later. Saying the play is about homosexuality is shallow. Saying that it isn’t might be glib. Are we more advanced today? Ultimately, love in this play  is controversial and destructive because all love is.

For me the star of the show was David Hare’s text. Dense but playful, quick but truthful, it balances wit and pathos without letting down either side. Neil Armfield‘s direction lets the text breath and show its colours, and in the end these are all the colours the productions needs.

In addition to the text, I loved the performances of Freddie Fox as Bosie and Cal MacAninch as Robbie. Freddie Fox’s Bosie is all mouth (lips, voices, words, kisses), he constantly walks a tight rope between devotion and deceit and is often truthful for both things at once. Cal MacAninch as Robbie Ross is a quieter presence but no less interesting: his earnestness is complicated, tinged with regret, memories and unfulfilled promises. When Wilde says “you were the first man I slept with”, we can see the attraction.

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