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Allegra Marland and Georgie Oulton: Di And Viv And Rose (In An Hour)

By | Published on Sunday 15 July 2018

Shiny new theatre company Handmade Theatre are headed up to the Scottish Capital this summer with what seems like a great choice for an Edinburgh show: a trimmed version of actress and writer Amelia Bullmore’s highly successful second play ‘Di And Viv And Rose’, which was first staged at the Hampstead Theatre in 2013, subsequently transferring to the West End.

To find out more about this production of the play, and the creatives behind it, I spoke to Handmade Theatre’s founders – and the stars of the show – Allegra Marland and Georgie Oulton.

CM: Can you start by telling us what the show is about? What story does ‘Di And Viv And Rose’ tell…?
AM&GO: ‘Di And Viv And Rose (In An Hour)’ tells the story of three women who meet on their first day at University and their subsequent friendship which spans the next twenty years of their lives. We follow these women as they rollercoaster their way through life, following their struggles with sexuality, loss and all kinds of love. Di and Viv and Rose are three flawed and quirky women with real inner strength. Their passion for each other and themselves is not curtailed by anyone else’s standards but their own. They are women we can all relate to.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about each of the characters in the play and their role in the story?
AM&GO: One of the reasons we chose to develop this play was because of how unique and vibrant each of these characters are.

We meet Di at University as a young woman who has led a sexually repressed, and sheltered life up to this point. Sporty and non-judgemental, Di is the glue that brings Rose and Viv together at the start of the play, and allows the friendship to blossom between the three of them. Di’s personal journey provokes pivotal moments for all three women and how the rest of their subsequent lives continue, bringing the play more depth and layers then you might assume at the start of the play.

Viv is passionately ambitious. She is determined to use her degree to get out of the life she grew up in and into the life she knows is waiting for her – one of hard work, success and stature. She is a fully fledged feminist with hard edges but the friendship Di and Rose offer her allows her to soften over time. She is studious and stubborn because she knows exactly where she is going and can’t afford to let anyone get in her way.

Rose has real ‘appetite.’ She is life-loving and life-affirming, with a refreshing lack of insecurity or ego. With unapologetic flaws and at times shocking life-decisions, she eats up the opportunity to have best friends like Viv and Di, and relishes even the smallest of joys that they share in their friendship together. She lives for every moment without much ambition for what might come after, celebrating the small joys and triumphs of daily life and mourning the mini-disasters and disappointments along the way too. Where Viv has the brains, Rose has the heart, and she wears hers like neon-flashing badge on her t-shirt.

None of the characters in particular carry the role as ‘heroine’ within the play – that’s what makes the play beautiful. It is the fact that without any one of the women, the friendship doesn’t function as it does when it is at its best – as a three. Each character has qualities and flaws that are unique to them, that when combined with the other two women, find it’s perfect blend and balance.

CM: What would you say are the primary themes of the piece? What does the play want to say?
AM&GO: The play’s themes focus on friendship’s impact on life, and life’s impact on friendship. As Amelia Bullmore said so aptly, in this play you witness all kinds of love, and learn how or how not to say sorry. You will laugh and cry, but hopefully be left feeling uplifted and inspired, with a reconnection to the importance of friendship in your life.

CM: Who are your cast, and who plays who?
AM&GO: Louisa Harland plays Di. She trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, and since graduating has featured in ‘Doctors’, ‘Harley & The Davidsons’, ‘Lost In London’ and ‘Derry Girls’. She has also just starred in the one-woman show ‘cotton fingers’ for the National Theatre Wales.

We play the other two characters. Allegra is Viv, and Georgie is Rose.

CM: Can you tell us about the playwright?
AM&GO: Amelia studied Drama at Manchester University. She started out as an actor and began writing professionally in 1994, and continues to do both. Her first play, ‘Mammals’ was shortlisted for the What’s On Stage Best New Comedy award and co-won the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. For television, Amelia has written episodes of ‘This Life’, ‘ Attachments’ and ‘Scott and Bailey’, and for radio ‘Craven’, ‘Cash Flow’ and a number of afternoon plays.

CM: This is a condensed version of the original, of course. How did you go about making changes to it, and in what ways is it different?
AM&GO: It took a long time and a great deal of work. Amelia writes with in such a detailed and intimate way – it’s genius and we were loath to cut any of it. To make things easier we focused on the story and the journey that the characters go on in the play, and tried to employ a discipline of cutting anything that we felt didn’t directly link to that. This was hard as the play really celebrates life’s tiny moments of importance.

We have therefore lost lots of dialogue about our backstories and families, and just kept the dialogue that strictly relates to the relationships between the girls. We remember everything that we have cut and use the unspoken information as ‘given circumstances’ for each scene and moment in the play, so that everything is still informed by the detail that Amelia offers in the original text.

The main difference about our version of the play, other than the fact that it is quite heavily cut, is that it is played by younger actors. The play has historically been played by women of an older age, casting back over their lives. Our version brings you right back to that young girl on her first day of University, and you watch all three of them grow up in front you as the play proceeds.

CM: You began by performing the show in London. What made you decide that it was a good idea to bring it to Edinburgh?
AM&GO: It was a no-brainer. We knew that our time working on it wasn’t up. It has so much nuanced detail that still, eight months on, we are finding new things. The play has something for everybody, and Edinburgh brings the most diverse and theatre-loving audiences to the fringe every year. It is Handmade Theatre’s inaugural production as a company, and very close to all of our hearts; we felt it was fitting it was also our Edinburgh debut production.

CM: Have you been to Edinburgh before, either as performers or fringe-goers? What made you want to return? What are you expecting from it?
AM&GO: We have all been going for years as Fringe-goers, but this is the first time that any of us have performed there. Directing, producing and starring in the show makes losing our Edinburgh virginity all the more meaningful for us and we cannot wait.

We are expecting to have a lot of fun as well as working hard – and hope to attract some great audiences. We want as many festival-fringe goers to see the show as possible, as well as industry professionals. It’s a great showcase for us as actors as well as being a beautiful play. We would love to transfer to back to London and New York after Edinburgh.

CM: What are you planning to do in Edinburgh when you’re not performing? Do you have any sightseeing or show-going plans?
AM&GO: See as much as possible! The Fringe is bursting full of great things to see this year – and we are so looking forward to getting stuck in and inspired amidst the flyering and performing! We have some very talented friends performing this year with shows like DugOut’s ‘Songlines’ and ‘Weird’ By Lucy Burke.

CM: Tell us now about Handmade Theatre – how did you come to be making a company together, and what were your aims when you did so?
AM&GO: We founded it in the autumn, in order to work on this, our first production.

As a company, Handmade aims to be actively involved in the process of ingraining female roles and writing throughout theatre, without confining ourselves to feminist pieces or all-female casts. We are looking to go on collaborating with other young professionals and our main area of focus is new writing. It is impossible not to notice how many talented, fully-trained creatives are out of work. Handmade focuses on developing work with these creative whilst continuing to generate more opportunities for women in the theatre.

CM: Do you have any lofty ambitions for the future of the company? Where do you see things going?
AM&GO: We have a great desire to transfer to New York after the Fringe as we think the play would be very well received there. We are in the process of seeing how we can make this happen.

We have also loved establishing our new event ‘Words and Things’. We had our first ‘Words and Things’ at the Arcola Theatre this year, with ten artists performing extracts from their own work, or work that had been written around them as a showcase. It was a huge success, with a sell-out audience, and the most generous and exciting buzz around it. We can’t wait to do the next one in the autumn.

We also aim to collaborate with Clean Break Theatre Company. Allegra has worked with them for two years and we would love to build on this relationship and develop some work with the women there.

CM: What do you have coming up next, after the Fringe?
AM&GO: You will have to follow us on instagram and twitter to find out….. Updates can be found on our website too.

‘Di And Viv And Rose (In An Hour)’ was performed at C cubed at Edinburgh Festival 2018.