Love Letters at Theatre Royal Haymarket
As the West End finally starts to reopen its doors after long COVID-forced closures, Theatre Royal Haymarket treats audiences to AR Gurney’s Love Letters, a lovely show about communicating over distance.
Starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove as two long-time friends and lovers, the play is a 50-year story told entirely via the letters that these two send each other throughout their lives. It feels quite relevant to 2020, as the two try to connect while not being able to physically meet, highlighting the pros and cons of long-distance communication that many have had to live through this year.
Andy and Melissa begin writing letters to each other as young children, starting with an RSVP to a birthday party and continuing for decades. It’s wonderfully written: the language shifts beautifully, making its way through kiddie-speak, childhood, teen slang and adult. It’s also witty, full of humour and occasionally quite hard-hitting.
The set couldn’t be simpler. Shaw and Seagrove simply sit behind writing desks for the duration, reading out their sides of the conversation. There’s very little in the way of lighting, and no music or other sound. At times, this feels like it might be missing something that could elevate the story just a bit, but the minimalism ultimately serves to put the focus on the performers.
Both actors are brilliant, not just in reading their letters but in their reaction to those they receive. It’s a joy to watch these classic British artists on stage. Seagrove’s performance in particular is mesmerising, with subtle and not so subtle facial expressions in response to what Andy writes.
Love Letters is a beautiful story and a wonderful welcome back to the theatre. Well worth a watch.
Photo: Paul Coltas
Love Letters is at Theatre Royal Haymarket from 3rd December until 7th February 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.