Skip to main content

Review of Love Letters (White Cobra) at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

A. R. Gurney's Love Letters is a very unorthodox play. First, as the title alludes to, it is an epistolary play. Secondly it involves virtually no movement from the actors, seated simply as a table and desk. Finally, it is performed as read from the script, so needs less rehearsal and history tells that it has therefore been performed by many famous actors since its debut in 1988. The likes of Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, Christopher Reeve, George Segal, Christopher Walken, Stockard Channing, Robert Vaughn, Elizabeth McGovern, Elizabeth Montgomery, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Charlton Heston to name a few of the dozens of names over the years to have taken the roles.

White Cobra Productions have also taken an approach of multiple actors in the roles, with four in total for each role across its run. The performance I saw, had Paul Fowler take on the role of Alan Ladd, while Lynne O'Sullivan was Melissa Gardner. Both are great in their roles, sparking off, but never directly speaking to each other as they read their letters to one another. It genuinely sounds as if it could be quite a dull play on paper, and it does take a little getting use to the format in the first few minutes, as cascades of words are thrown at you. However, slowly you begin to drift into the lives of these two people. A burgeoning love/hate/love relationship is revealed through letters, cards and Melisa's drawings. It all gradually becomes quite uplifting and Gurney's words have a very realistic feeling.

Much of the joy of Love Letters is watching the silent person, both Paul and Lynne put great effort into expressing their opinion of the letters as they hear them, most particularly when they are less enthusiastic about the content. The reading of Alan Ladd's "Christmas message" especially is a highlight, as Lynne grimaces and survives her way through this clinical letter.

Direction from Paul Fowler himself, and the set are kept simple and unobtrusive as this is very much a play of words, which barring the facial reactions, would work just as well on radio. It is clear that the letters themselves have been lovingly realised for the production by Denise Swann (who also stage manages).

I suspect that the eventual ending comes as no surprise, but when it does arrive, it really does provide genuine emotion. This play of lifelong love, with moments of playful banter (Mellisa happily calls Alan, Andrew Makepeace Ladd the turd at one point), stirs pretty much every emotions during it's couple of hours, and Gurney's language really does bring some beautiful words to the ear. A great production of what is actually a gorgeous, but very different play.


Performance reviewed: Wednesday 17th November, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Love Letters runs at The Playhouse until Friday 18th November, and has further dates scheduled for 2017. For details visit: http://www.whitecobraproductions.co.uk/

For full details about the Playhouse Theatre visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Disney's High School Musical by NMTC Youth Society at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

As a regular theatre-goer, and indeed reviewer, I have learnt over the years that not all theatre is really for everybody. It's pretty obvious a statement really, but with reviewers, unlike regular theatregoers, you end up by default attending shows you might not dream of going to see as a normal customer. Maybe High School Musical is one pretty close to the top of the list I would only see on "official reviewing duty", as it's not really for a 40-year odd person. However, beyond that, the Northampton Musical Theatre Company Youth Society has come up with a really pretty impressive production of Disney's classic teen musical.

This is a very dramatic departure from the inaugural production of the Youth Theatre in 2018, Les Misérables (much more my thing), however, perhaps unsurprisingly it is better suited to the performers here. Their enthusiasm is even more evident to that previous production. Here, unlike the horrors of revolution-torn France, they can have fu…

Review of The Full Monty at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The 1997 film The Full Monty is one of the best regarded of relatively recent British films, due to it being both a warm and emotionally strong tale, solid comedy and a wealth of acting talent, and it's no surprise that its very theme has spawned an immensely successful touring stage version. It literally overflows with the opportunity to be performed in front of a, probably mostly female, audience, well, the final scene does, in any case. However, what of the rest, and how about for a male audience member? So to speak. Well, it was time to find out.

The first thing that is apparent from The Full Monty stage show, is how faithful this is to the film. Much of the show is what you have seen if you have seen the film, but translated cleverly to the stage, it feels just that little more real and gritty as well. It opens with a nicely staged scene of darkness and flashes of a torch as Gaz (Gary Lucy), his son Nathan (Fraser Kelly) and Dave (Kai Owen) break into their former factory wo…

Review of The Bodyguard at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

The 1992 film The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner and the acting debut for singing megastar Whitney Houston, was a slightly average romantic thriller, which is really mostly remembered for its musical turns from Houston, so, it is perhaps surprising that it took a whole twenty years to make it's transition to the stage as a musical version. Premiering in London in December 2012, ten months after Houston's tragic death, the show has had great success around the world, and with this, it's second UK tour, has a recognisable face in the star role, of Alexandra Burke, former X-Factor winner (curiously not mentioned in her programme biog).
The Bodyguard follows the story of former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard Frank Farmer (Benoît Maréchal) who is hired to protect multi-award-winning music star Rachel Marron, following her receiving threats from a stalker.
It's clear from the bold opening performance that Alexandra Burke as Marron is not looking to imitate Houston in…