“If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else”
In one of those curious co-incidences, Mark Shenton’s blog for The Stage today was about the pleasure of re-viewing shows already seen. For me, it was a two show day and in both cases, it was the third time I had seen them, albeit in different productions. Part of being a theatre addict is the delicious thrill of being able to revisit plays and get something new from them, as well as being reminded of why I enjoyed it so much, and so it proved with Mike Bartlett’s Bull and Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose.
I first saw Bull in a rehearsed reading at the Finborough back in 2010, when I was still in the process of falling hard for Bartlett’s writing, and was then so enthused by the prospect of seeing a full production that we made a trip to Sheffield to see it be wonderfully staged by Clare Lizzimore in the Studio at the Crucible in 2013. (Travelling from London to Sheffield for a show that isn’t even an hour long is proof positive, as if it were ever needed, of the strength of my addiction!) And it is that same production that has belatedly arrived at the Young Vic this year.
And it remains a powerfully brutal piece of writing, unflinching in its portrayal of workplace bullying and the culture of competitive cruelty that has become so prevalent in modern society. Eleanor Matsuura and Adam James’ evisceration of their colleague Sam Troughton as they prepare for a meeting in which one of them will get fired is transfixing in its horror, especially when you know what’s coming, and it was instructive to listen to the way in which the (young) audience response subtly shifted as their initial laughter faded to shocked silence. I also enjoyed being part of the standing ringside punters as opposed to sitting as I did in Sheffield, it heightened the intensity of the show.
The evening saw me go back to Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose as it makes its West End debut. It premiered in 2011 in the downstairs space at the Hampstead Theatre when Nicola Walker, Claudie Blakley and Tamzin Outhwaite variously broke and lifted the heart with this glorious paean to friendship. The success of that run saw the show get promoted to the main house there in 2013 where Anna Maxwell Martin and Gina McKee joined Outhwaite who reprised her original role and Anna Mackmin’s production once again did great business.
So much so, that it has now arrived at the Vaudeville Theatre for a third go and with a depressing predictability, the cast has changed once again and brought in more actors who I just cannot resist. In this case, it is Samantha Spiro and Jenna Russell who have joined Outhwaite (once again reprising) and their presence brings an added, different, kind of pleasure to the show which I hugely enjoyed seeing once again as it weaves its tale of the changing nature of friendship over time, not just for women but for everyone.
The fleeting nature of theatrical productions, particularly plays, means that it can feel like they’ve gone too soon so getting the chance to return to Bull and Di and Viv and Rose more than once and over a number of years has been something special. In both cases, being able to re-view (whilst also reviewing) these shows has been a genuine privilege and a real enjoyment.