When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not a postcard or Christmas card but an honest-to-God handwritten letter to someone that you put in an envelope, added a stamp and put in a post box? No idea? Me neither. Thanks to a whole host of instant messaging services, communication is virtually immediate, and nobody now has to suffer the agonies of waiting for a reply to their missive, unlike the two characters in Kashyap Raja’s one-act play Letters at the Jack Studio Theatre.
Josh (Tom Everatt) lives in London and has recently had to say goodbye to his good friend Mary (Alina Illin) who, having completed her Masters, is returning to her home country, Argentina. Whilst they have promised to keep in touch, unusually for two twenty-somethings, they are planning to spurn all forms of electronic communication and instead, put pen, or pencil, to paper and write letters to each other. As time passes, and their lives change, the two of them keep to their vow and regularly update each other on their doings. It’s not always easy going, but they are always there for each other no matter what the fates may throw at them.
Entering the theatre and seeing Monika Gravagno’s simple but very effective set, my immediate thought was that Letters was going to be a nice play, and I was right. The set – strings of letters hanging from the ceiling and a couple of chairs really set the mood for the next eighty minutes.
My one fear was that this production would be simply a sort of ‘Ladies of letters’ for a younger generation. Thankfully it isn’t. Instead we have two very well-rounded individuals who the audience could easily believe met at a dancing class and became close friends. Why they chose to eschew electronic communication is never explained but it doesn’t matter. The fact they stayed with their plan to write is lovely in itself. The story has some unexpected twists to it. Neither of the characters we first meet are the same people they were by the end of the show. Both have gone through much and Josh, in particular, changes from a rather geeky lad to someone older and wiser but still with the same sense of fun and love of life.
While the two characters are on stage together throughout, for obvious reasons they interact directly with each other very rarely but, and this is down to a combination of Kashyap Raja’s direction, and the performances by Everatt and Illin, there is a real chemistry between them that translates to their characters beautifully.
As the writer recites their letter, the receiver reacts. Little face pulls, smiles, eyes widening, etc, all those things that we do when reading a letter from someone that knows us well. This really adds to the authenticity of the relationship being played out and the believability of Josh and Mary’s friendship.
There’s not much more to say about Letters. As a play, it really worked for me on every level. The writing and acting were totally engaging and I was quickly invested in the story of Mary and Josh. At the end, as the lights went down, I sat back relaxed, convinced in my mind that though life would have plenty in store for them, they would turn out all right.
The run at the Jack Studio is short, but hopefully, this lovely play will be back doing the rounds very soon.
Review by Terry Eastham
Josh and Mary are friends. Josh lives in London and Mary in Argentina. They meet for a brief period in London and promise to write letters to each other and to never use Facebook, Instagram or emails.
Whilst they are apart, Josh gets fired from his job and travels to India and Mary falls in love with an Irish man. Their bond grows stronger as they share the most intrinsic details of their lives through letters. An unexpected event in Mary’s life challenges the virtue of their friendship and makes them question what they really mean for each other.
Director Kashyap Raja Set Design Monika Gravagno
Cast: Alina Illin, Tom Everatt
written and produced by Kashyap Raja