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Posts Tagged ‘Mammals’

After an excellent debut with Mammals eight years ago at the Bush, I thought we’d lost playwright Amelia Bullmore to TV & radio (and her other job, acting), but here we are with a second stage play that had me spellbound.

After a somewhat staccato first scene where the three characters, newly arrived at University, give us a series of short one-liners which add up to form their first term / year, we see then move into a house together and the following act forms the play’s core – the development of their friendship. It’s funny, warm, charming and you get to know and like these three very different characters.

Di is a cockney lesbian, sporty and butch. Viv’s a more earnest, studious and serious Geordie. Rose is a country girl whose flightiness and sexual promiscuity contrasts with her home-making and domesticity. Just when you feel safe with this cheerful and charming nostalgia, you get the first of a number of tragedies and it breaks your heart.

The play becomes so much more unpredictable from here. We spend a while watching them make their way in the world, their careers and their other relationships, before we jump forward ten years or so, then another ten to see how their lives have unfolded and their friendships have fared. There’s a fascinating debate about kindness – selfish or selfless? – along the way and it has the uncanny ability to switch from hilarity to tears (them and us) on a phrase or an action.

I can’t think of a better play about friendships, their ups and downs but above all how crucial they are to us all. These characters are so real you want to be with them, and at times be them. I was desperate for the interval to end because I just wanted their story to continue. The performances of Tamzin Outhwaite as Di, Gina McKee as Viv and Anna Maxwell Martin as Rose are all so good, the gap between character and actor blurs completely and they become Di and Viv and Rose. I have rarely witnessed such chemistry in more than thirty years of play-going.

I think casting older actors to play 15-25 years younger for much of the play pays off as I doubt younger actors would have the (real life) experience to make it so real. Anna Mackmin’s staging is masterly because she obtains a cohesive flow and a deeply satisfying whole from multiple scenes spanning 27 years.

Last night was one of those nights you know you could never have in a cinema or watching something on TV. This is a live theatre experience that I have no doubt will prove to be a highlight of the year and may well prove to be a highlight of my theatre-going life. Very special indeed.

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