ARUNDEL FESTIVAL: Life and friendship...

Pennie Billinghurst
Pennie Billinghurst
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Billed as a humorous and thoughtful exploration of friendship’s impact on life and life’s impact on friendship, Amelia Bullmore’s Di, Viv and Rose is this year’s Arundel Festival production from the town’s Drip Action theatre company.

Directing it will be Pennie Billinghurst.

“It’s a play that (artistic director) Bill (Brennan) and I have wanted to do for a couple of years. You are always looking out for new ideas. It’s the story of three women, and I don’t think women have enough exposure as leading players. I belong to several play-publishing websites, and they send updates about what is new. I read this play and really liked it, and Bill did and thought the same.

“You have these three women, and you follow them through 20 years, through meeting at university for the first time and the way their lives develop and the way they manage to stay friends.”

You have got three contrasting characters.

“Rose is an innocent. She is ditzy and affectionate and very free with her favours. Viv is the motherly one. She looks after everyone and has a penchant for 40s clothing. Di is the feisty one. She fights for her causes and for her friends. She fights for all sorts of causes, anything that is in vogue. She is very left-wing and fights for anything that attacks her conscience. She is also a lesbian, but that is not the major thing about her.

“They are more or less thrown together at university in the halls of residence, but they become friends and their friendship remains with them through their lives. The play is described as a deeply-felt account of female friendship.

“And it is just the three characters – in a multitude of settings. Technically it will be quite challenging. You have got the halls of residence and their flat and you have got street scenes and a train station.”

As director, Pennie will also have to convey the passing years, which she intends to do through lighting. Key to it all was to begin the process with a read-through. As she says, there is a tendency for actors to look just at their own parts when they are first looking at a play: “If you have a read-through at the start, you get everyone thinking about the whole thing.”

Pennie has been involved now with Drip Action for ten years: “It was through Bill. He heard I was at a loose end, and he said ‘Come and do something with us’. I love the autonomy of the company. We are not bound by rules and regulations. There are no internal politics within the company, and I love the plays we do, plays that are cutting edge. It is great to do plays that are a bit of a challenge. And the company does well. You wouldn’t last this long as a company if you weren’t doing well!”

Di, Viv and Rose runs from August 22-27 at The Victoria Institute at 8pm. Tickets £12, £8 students from The Book Ferret, 34 High Street; 01903 885727; thebookferret@btconnect.com.

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