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A quick review of Letters Live

Yesterday evening I went with my sister to the opening night of the five night stint of Letter's Live - a production where acclaimed and celebrated actors read aloud to an audience beautiful and important letters written by both super famous people and very ordinary people and in one case, a fictional person. 

It was held at the Freemason's Hall in Covent Garden (a beautiful building built in the 18th century, and historically a meeting place for the Freemasons - is it only me who can't help but envisage the Simpson's Stonecutters as soon as Freemasons are mentioned? anyhoo...) it's a building I've always wanted to go in, and was almost - but not quite - as beautiful as the letters themselves.

Letters Live, which has previously popped up at Hay Literary Festival, at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Southbank Centre to name just a few, describes itself as "a celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondance" and I guess that describes it just right.

The event certainly pulled in the big names this time, with Benedict Cumberbatch reading every night, alongside plenty of other amazing thinkers and performers - Russell Brand, Caitlin Moran, Richard Holloway, Juliet Stevenson and Louise Brealey to name a few. Tom Odell provided a few musical interludes, songs about letters ending on Fats Waller, "I am going to sit down and write myself a letter" which suited Tom's folksy slow rockish spin so perfectly.

There were rofl-icious letters, like the letter to (and reply from) Barbara Bush by Marge Simpson, Nick's Cave letter to MTV asking for his nomination for best male artist to be withdrawn (no thank you - he's not competitive), and the memo from South Park movie creators to the agency which rated the age certificate suitable for the film. "Although it is not animated yet, we put a new storyboard in for clarification in the scene with Saddam Hussein's penis. The intent is you never see Saadam's real penis, he is in fact using a dildo both times"...

And then there were letters that actually made me well up and cry a little, and I got so invested in these other people's relationships, even though they had only been read for 5 minutes and I hadn't even heard of the penman or the recipient before yesterday. So many beautiful letters from men and women so desperately in love with someone who had left them - by dying, by falling out of love, by just being a bit crap. 

In someways I sort of felt like I was intruding in some private space of the people who had written them, they were never meant for my eyes and ears after all. But mainly it was everything to see all that love and all that humour in all these letters, to sit and wonder about the writers and to remember how similar and connected we are as humans, regardless of where we are from, the troubles we are facing or which century we are living in.

I wonder if in 100 years time, people will read my drunken love texts to Will and think they are a beautiful and real expression of love?! Looking at the last drunk text I sent Will (future text readers would have to sort their way through quite a lot of "I'll be 15 mins" and "did you remember to get the chicken out to defrost?" if they decided to look for my love texts) it reads "I love you! Now where are you and my creme egg mcflurry?" Maybe not the stuff of theatre... 

I panic bought tickets to Live Letters, not even know who I could spiel into going, thought about selling them and I am just so glad I did go, and I said yes, made me realise I really should do it more often!

And by the end of the night I felt like quite the cultural biatch. Or should I say cumberbitch....

It is pretty tricky to get tickets to Letters Live in Freemason's Hall now, but you can try here, or otherwise keep your eye out for the next lot here.

And finally a couple of videos to help you procrastinate! Fats Waller and Homer Simpson:

Like the sounds of Letters Live - how about Hay Festival?

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