Philobiblon: An excellent half of a play

Friday, April 07, 2006

An excellent half of a play

There's a lot to praise about 412 Letters, the inaugural production of the play by Matthew Wilkie that opened tonight at the Union Theatre in Southwark.

There's an affectionate, sparky chemistry between its two actresses, Emma Field-Rayner, who plays Ros, the uptight, respectably middle-class, high-flying PR executive, and Louise Kempton, who's Charlotte, the working class, mixed-up but determined would-be writer.

The script is beautifully structured around the letters the two have exchanged - letters written primarily by Ros, that Charlotte has appropriated for her latest attempt to write the Great British Novel. We jump back and forth through time, as the carefully catalogued sheets reveal how the two met - Charlotte was the drummer in a band booed off-stage, who typically decided to take on the whole abusive audience with her fists, and came out worst from the deal - and how their relationship developed, then imploded.

The repartee is fast and witty, even if the roles the two play - Ros the grown-up, bossy organiser, Charlotte, the rebellion child, are, except for the lesbian nature of their relationship, already widely explored, perhaps to the point of cliche.

"I need closure," Ros exclaims.
"Do I look like a fucking door?" Charlotte replies.



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