Letters Live at Freemasons’ Hall
The evening commences with a paean of praise for the transporting nature of letters. The night aims to raise money for Ministry of Stories, First Story and Help Refugees with remarkable readings from talented performers, each of whom remain a secret until the curtain is drawn back. Perhaps the only things richer than the resplendent Freemasons’ Hall are the visceral and beautifully moving letters.
Jude Law begins with a letter from Frank Sinatra in response to Mike Royko’s unflattering column: “You’re nothing but a pimp,” ends his vitriolic reply. Julian Clary and Omid Djalili’s double act is a comic masterpiece: they perform the retort of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire, where “fool of all the world” is but one of the milder insults thrown at the Emperor. Edith Bowman is aptly chosen to read John Peel’s letter to Mathew Bannister regarding a drum and base programme eating into his show’s airtime. Charlie Heaton reads a hilarious letter from a teenage Tom Hanks to his idol George Roy Hill, in which he suggests possible ways to rocket him to fame.
Sinead O’Connor’s advice to Miley Cyrus, in answer to Cyrus claiming that the singer was her inspiration for Wrecking Ball, is read by Mariella Frostrup. O’Connor’s letter warns against allowing the music industry to exploit and prostitute you: “They don’t care about you.” Noma Dumezwen touchingly reads Maya Angelou’s advice to her younger self. Nicholas Parsons shocks the crowd with the unexpectedly crude letter from Sir Archibald Kerr to Lord Reginald Pembroke in 1943, maintaining a poker face throughout. And if the line-up was not already astounding, Michael Palin humorously and knowingly recites a letter from Mark Forstater to Michael White: “I would like to retain ‘fart in your general direction'” insists Forstater, who attempts to make concessions in order for The Holy Grail to be A rated.
This review can only offer a flavour of the evening, all of the pieces are on the Letters Live twitter page and are worth a read. Letters so often reveal a consciousness, they are not merely words written on a page. They can contain the most personal parts of a person, but equally, often lack the barriers of self-restraint erected in all other means of communication. The only letters written about tonight will without doubt be in praise – utterly perfect.
Letters Live is at the Freemasons’ Hall from 4th until 8th October 2016, for further information or to book visit here
Watch the trailer for Letters Live here: