An invitation to lost loves

lover letters graphic

Love Letters Straight From Your Heart

Malvern Theatres

*****

I MUST start this review with a caveat; the show I saw tonight has never been seen before, and despite being eight years in the making, it will never be performed again. Let me explain . . .

Love Letters Straight From Your Heart by Uninvited Guests is not a wholly pre-scripted and rehearsed piece of theatre, but more of a participatory experience, as I have now come to expect from this collaboration of highly creative performers and innovative production company Fuel.

Promotional material invites us along to the event to ‘raise our glasses to long lost loves and current lovers, to mums, to dads and to absent friends’.

Described by Uninvited Guests themselves as ‘somewhere between a wedding reception, a wake and a radio dedication show’, Love Letters Straight From Your Heart wants us to share what is in our hearts, and on booking our tickets, audience members are emailed a form that they are asked to fill in, to choose and dedicate a song to someone they love or have loved, which then becomes part of that particular show.

On entering the theatre space, audience members (although I felt more like a guest) are handed a glass of cava or sparkling water, before choosing a seat at a grand dinner table, which is covered with red tablecloths and decorated with vases of flowers and clusters of party poppers. We are introduced to our hosts for the evening, Malcolm and Jessica, who sit far away from each other at opposite ends of the long table. They take turns to play snatches of music, lights fade up and down, and we are unsure where to look.

We are soon given our first invitation of the evening when we are asked to look into the eyes of the person sitting opposite us for the whole of the following track. A challenge for some, but sweet, and possibly the first time that I’ve found Johnny Cash even vaguely bearable.

MOVING DEDICATIONS

This was followed by the night’s first dedications, and oh, how moving some of these were. There were dedications to friends and partners, to absent offspring and past loves. We heard pop and disco and classical and all things in between.

Some people used their own names and named the person they had chosen the song for. Others remained anonymous, which gave parts of the production a truly confessional feel. After one particularly touching speech, I felt that we could do with a wine waiter to top up our glasses, and was mightily impressed when Malcolm shortly afterwards opened a couple more bottles of cava and did just that.

There was running and hugging, there were toasts and tears, there was dance and a disco ball, sorrow and joy and . . . What a fantastic idea for a show.

Nearing the end of the evening, we heard snippets of Scott Walker’s If You Go Away, followed by the French original by Jacques Brel, the writing of which has its own tale of heartbreak and rejection. I would have loved to have heard the whole of both of these, plus my own favourite version by Marc Almond, so was very happy at the next song which cut in, breaking the misery and lifting the mood rather; Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, followed by a few bars of Where Did Our Love Go. There really were songs here for all ages but these last tunes coupled with a bit of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart took me right back to other loves and sticky discos, and left a few of us ready to go and dance like it was nineteen eighty something long, long ago.

Love Letters Straight From Your Heart finished with a slow dance, another toast, and an entreaty to take something from the evening’s event with us, to go out into the world with love. As Malcolm put it in the post-show talk, this is not so much a show, but more a group of people sharing something, and I for one was deeply moved at the stories and emotions that some people chose to share.

‘Thank you for breaking up with me; it did me a lot of good’, read one dedication. It may not be theatre as you know it, but I’d urge you to put any scepticism to one side and send in your own dedication. Go and see this production with an open heart and mind; it will do you a lot of good.

To 19-11-14.

Amy Rainbow

18-11-14

Contents page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre