Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

16/10/2020 - 07/11/2020

Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Kensington, Dunedin

18/11/2020 - 22/11/2020

Production Details

“Crackling with wisdom and wit, Di and Viv and Rose is a humorous and thoughtful exploration of friendship’s impact on life and life’s impact on friendship.” – London Theatre.

“How do you want to live here? I mean we could come and go and lead separate lives. Or we could really live together. What do you think?” – Rose

Rose (Julie Edwards) is a free-spirited art history student who sleeps with any boy she likes the look of. Her companions are Di (Lara Macgregor), a sports-loving lesbian who is taking business studies, and Viv (Jodie Dorday), a sociology student with a fierce work ethic. On the surface they seem unlikely friends but as Di, Viv and Rose’s friendship grows, we see how their solidarity precariously shifts over a 40 year time span. A funny and thoughtful exploration of friendship’s impact on life and life’s impact on friendship. 

Di and Viv and Rose is a witty, vivid comedy that charts the steady, but sometimes chaotic, progression of three women’s lives and their ultimately enduring bonds.

This NZ Premiere sports a top NZ all-female cast and crew and is one not to be missed.

Di and Viv and Rose is a moving and surprising pleasure of an evening, that sends you out into the night with a lump in your throat” Michael Billington, The Guardian (London)

“This is a powerhouse cast that any city in the country would find hard to beat. I have worked with them all and each has the power to dominate whatever stage they are on. As a trio, they will be incandescent.”Sir Roger Hall, CNZM, QSO

CIRCA One, 1 Taranaki St, Wellington Waterfront
16 Oct – 7 Nov 2020
(Note: no show on Sat 17 Oct/Election Day)
Extra matinee – 2pm Sat 7 Nov
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm; Fri – Sat 8pm; Sun 4pm
$25 – $52
‘Concession’ price (Community Services Card, Gold Card or student ID required)
Book Now! 

Content Advisory: Di & Viv & Rose contains discussion of sexual violence andstrong language 
Part of WTF! 2020

Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward St, South Dunedin
18-22 November, 7.30pm,
plus matinees Saturday 2pm and Sunday 4pm
Earlybird $30.00
Adult $38.00
Seniors (65+) $30.00
Community Services Card $25.00
Student $20.00
Groups of 10+ $30
Door sales available.
Find out more and book online at www.fusionproductions.co.nz

Di:  Lara Macgregor
Viv:  Jodie Dorday
Rose:  Julie Edwards

Set Design by Debbie Fish
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lal
Costume Design by Sheila Horton 

Theatre ,

Celebrate the goddess within!

Review by Terry MacTavish 19th Nov 2020

Rather like being snuggled back into the womb again, here in the lovely old Mayfair, enveloped in the wonderful warmth emanating from hundreds of women, joyfully celebrating female friendship. Despite some shocks and some sorrows, Di and Viv and Rose is an overwhelmingly positive experience; three superb actors creating characters we love from the start and in whom we become deeply invested, all the while reviving memories of the highs and lows with our own besties.

This Fusion production has had a long gestation, its birth near-miraculous here in one of the few places in our 2020 world to offer a safe crib, but the rapturous reception in Dunedin shows how welcome it is. The actors respond with an outpouring of energy the like of which is rarely seen, giving their all in stunning, authentic and memorable performances.

With a violent burst of loud music and headbanging dance: “She’s got it! Yeah, baby, she’s got it!!” we are plunged straight into the mid-eighties. An unlikely trio of British girls starting their first year at University team up to rent 42 Mossbank Road, and set about balancing housekeeping, studies and sex. They gossip and bicker, criticise and eventually come to love one another. For life.

Director Stephanie McKellar-Smith has been gifted with the perfect team to bring out the eye-popping honesty of the script: three New Zealand theatre legends, women who are themselves friends and have long wanted to mount a play like this. All are polished, bravely physical actors, completely at ease in playing the different ages of the women and their regional accents. The natural rapport is sheer delight to witness.

Julie Edwards, last seen here just before lockdown as an engaging Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, plays sweetly naïve and unashamedly promiscuous Rose, whose stepfather owns the flat. This role seems written for Edwards’s consummate comic ability – she is hilariously, endearingly funny throughout, displaying amazingly nonchalant courage as she fans her fanny after yet another too vigorous session – Conrad, chief boyfriend among many, being cursed with a ‘big thing’.

Lara Macgregor is captivating as Di, clumsily adorable as she takes dubious advice from her flatmates on how to negotiate her way round the Uni ‘lesbian table’ to date her crush, provoking howls of delight from the audience when she jogs on, grimy and sweaty, in the approved ‘butch’ model of the day. Yet she is also deeply moving at the crisis moment of Di’s life, making her later development utterly convincing.

Viv is the serious student: a sociologist given to explaining earnestly to her friends their unconscious behaviour and trying out on the audience her entertaining university essays on such tools of patriarchy as the corset: “The waist is a male construct”. Jodie Dorday successfully endows Viv with dignity and gradually growing compassion. 

It is certainly enjoyable to revisit student life (especially in the 80s, so we in the audience feel superior because we recognise a microwave and use coriander with confidence) but through flashes forward Di and Viv and Rose also provides the great satisfaction of learning what will happen when these lovable girls become women – answerrs we don’t usually get till hideous school reunions. The second act, which gives us scenes as distant as 2010, allows us to see the consequences of choices, and the enduring bond of friendship that has softened and enhanced each life event.

The dialogue is credible and witty – Rose has a surprising talent for new-minted similes – and the tone is exuberant, even playful, despite the darker moments and some truly horrifying shocks.  Severely tested, somehow friendship survives, and we are shown that apparent disasters can ultimately lead to happiness. Writer Amelia Bullmore has dealt particularly sensitively with the issue of sexual assault, and how it was handled in the 80s.

Not long ago when Di and Viv and Rose proved a smash-hit In London’s West End, there was some criticism of the fairly light references to the turbulent political scene during Thatcher’s brutal Britain. Coincidentally I too was at a Northern British university in 1985/86, and I confess we students were more interested in our own lives than in changing the world. I do recall red paint being thrown over my campus branch of Barclay’s Bank, that had investments in apartheid South Africa, and in fact there is one reference early in the play to a ‘heroic’ protest against apartheid. However, when you are away from home for the first time, one’s social life and who is sleeping with whom does tend to take centre stage.

But the personal is political after all, and we see the politics of the time through details of the girls’ lives, like the way Di has to go back to ‘not being a lesbian’ on visits back home. Above all there is an implicit fear of ending up like their unliberated mums. We learn a good deal about the mothers – Rose’s mum never recovered from early widowhood, relies on her second husband and is continually medicated, Viv’s parents are remote, her mother bitterly jealous of her daughter’s opportunities, while Di’s mother sends cosy food parcels, but denies her daughter’s sexuality and always serves fish on Fridays.

The amusing costumes (by Sheila Horton) are usually comically ghastly – this was the 80s – although there are some classy black and white outfits in the delightful scene when one of the women, who has met with success, flies her friends business-class to New York to share her triumph. The set (by Debbie Fish) is fluid and attractive, sweeping cream curves and suspended floating sails, neutral for some scenes, but able to be speedily decorated as the student flat. Sean Hawkins’ lighting complements the set serenely, a dangerous glow illuminating more ominous scenes.

The soundtrack of 80s music is fundamental, establishing the period and evoking memories. To this McKellar-Smith has choreographed gorgeously extreme dance routines, including a breakdancing bust that has the audience roaring again. Whether in riotous moments like this, or the darker ones of Di’s quiet agony and Viv’s despair, the audience’s empathy is palpable, reminding me of Rose’s description of the intimacy of sex: ‘All separateness goes’.

At interval I venture to ask two of the very few men if they are enjoying it. The one seated by his wife replies politely, “Very much.” The other grunts, “Not my cup of tea.” (I don’t enquire but suspect his tea preference would be ‘Gumboot’.) The women, however, are all warmly enthusiastic. Perhaps it is because the play does not avoid life’s tragedies that it succeeds in feeling uplifting. Or perhaps these are simply such terrific actors.

So it’s cheerfully back to revel in a wild ending, with fantastic dancing once more to Bananarama, ‘Venus’, 1986: “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire, at your desire…” Yeah, baby, she’s definitely got it – and we are once more bouncing in the seats as if we all have what Rose charmingly refers to as “the fanny-gallops”. Surely every woman should seize this sparkling opportunity to grab her own lifelong friends and celebrate the goddess within! 


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Twists and turns of life-enriching relationships explored and celebrated

Review by John Smythe 17th Oct 2020

The story goes that Jodie Dorday and Julie Edwards have been close friends for decades but had never been in a play together, so Jodie went on the hunt for one they could do. Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose (which premiered in the downstairs space of London’s Hampstead Theatre in 2011 and was revived in its main theatre in 2013) seemed ideal: in the mid-1980s three disparate 18 year olds meet in a student hostel then share a house and form friendships that last decades despite their living different lives in different parts of the world.

Two more long-standing friends and colleagues came in on the project: Lara Macgregor to complete the cast; Stephanie McKellar-Smith as director. And so began “a year full of trials, setbacks and uncertainty,” as McKellar-Smith puts it in her programme note. “I want to credit Jodie Dorday for her Amazonia efforts in dragging this project through venue fails, lockdowns, funding issues and a global pandemic to bring us to this point” – the point being this all-women Circa Theatre & Fusion Productions contribution to WTF! 2020.

A family bereavement impacted the start of rehearsals and the opening night has been brought forward a day because Saturday night (tonight) will see their target audience focussed on the results of the rescheduled election. WTF indeed. On the upside, working through all these challenges must have been grist to the proverbial mill for the close-knit team because their relationships through every emotional beat of the play resound with authenticity.

Each fully inhabits her role through multiple moods in different time-frames and places. Dorday is the practical, no-nonsense, ever-analytical and therefore compulsively judgemental sociology student Viv, who progresses from functional clobber to New York chic. Edwards is the wide-eyed, free-loving, as happy to cook as she is to copulate Rose, whose fortunes take unexpected turn – one inevitable, the other shockingly random. Macgregor is the initially tentative lesbian business studies student, Di, seeking love and familial understanding and acceptance as she finds her place in the world.

Bullmore’s script offers telling insights into each woman’s past while progressing the present action through often unexpected twists and turns, manifested seamlessly by the onstage trio and director Mckellar-Smith with a fluent and fluid ease that belies the struggles they’ve had to get it on.

Debbie Fish’s somewhat floating translucent set design allows them to find common ground and connection within a tenuous reality and impermanent world. It also cleverly hides an eclectic array of era-appropriate props and, with a bit of furniture rearranging, facilitates a range of locations through time – enhanced by Jennifer Lal’s judicious lighting design. For a cast of three, costume designer Sheila Horton has come up with countless perfectly picked outfits to mark Di, Viv and Rose’s progressions through ages, stages, circumstances and places.

The first act traverses their three years of undergraduate study in the mid 1980s, the latter two in a house bought for them to inhabit by Rose’s unseen but ever-helpful stepfather, Charlie. Greater leaps in the second half bring them well into the 21st century. If ever you wanted proof that age is a state of mind, see this production. The actors simply believe themselves to be whatever their characters’ ages are in each scene, so we do too.  

We share their progress through domestic and epic tensions and release; through the highs and lows of humour, heartache, romance, atrocity, compassion and tragedy to confrontation of what remains unresolved. The sounds of Billy Idol, Phil Collins and Joan Armatrading track the transitions. An energetic dance sequence encapsulates their relationships: full of life, individualistic, sometimes interconnecting and briefly in perfect unison.  

Despite its time and place-specific setting, with the actors sketching in regional UK accents without making them predominant, the universality of Di and Viv and Rose endures as much as the women’s relationships. In their own small way they epitomise the major importance and value of accepting difference and diversity, and having our lives enriched in the process.

This is a play to be experienced in the flesh, breathing the same air as the actors and those in the audience with you. Treat yourselves.

[Footnote: Circa’s first encounter with Amelia Bullmore was in 2008 with Mammals.]


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