As you are all no doubt aware, the current global pandemic has caused the theatre industry to grind to a halt. As a theatre reviewer, you’d think such an event would render me useless…think again. With many venues and companies now streaming their work for audiences to watch from the comfort of their own home, I am once again getting to experience the shows I so greatly miss.
From the venue that brought you the world renowned ‘tea time tales’, comes tonight’s show. My dinner table is becoming my venue of choice for theatre viewing during these times, hosting performances that have replaced “turn off your mobile phones” with “turn off your microphones”.
Tonight I am watching Love Letters at Home, a show brought to us by Bristol based theatre company Uninvited Guests who first performed it way back in 2007. The show is filled with song dedications and accompanying declarations of love from the audience members watching tonight, thus meaning the script changes each time it is performed. This personal touch brings the descriptions of all these loves stories, both epic and understated, right into your home and dare I say, your heart.
The evening is narrated by Jessica Hoffmann and Richard Dufty, with the pair reading the audience’s love letters and playing their song requests. The music varies, with wedding songs, songs from a couple’s favourite gig, a family holiday soundtrack and songs of remembrance. Some of you may be wondering whether the general public pen as good a script as the playwrights whose words normally grace the stage. All I can say is love really does make poets of us all.
This show’s heart is definitely in the right place, but the set up seems to take away its soul. Of course I understand that companies have little choice at this time, it’s either zoom or nothing. However, the moments in which I’m asked to stare into a stranger’s eyes through the lens of my laptop, doesn’t have the desired effect. The truth is the intimacy of being in a room with someone cannot be beaten by being in a zoom room with them; there are just some things that don’t translate. The company have little control over this, but despite their best intentions, internet connection is no substitute for human connection.
If you were to read someone else’s love letter, you’d get a glimpse of their love story. Tonight, when an audience member’s dedication is being read, I can’t help but scroll and find their video to watch their reaction to the words they have written. Despite my issues with the format, these glimpses of love during a time of hardship and sorrow, truly are a welcome relief.
Love Letters at Home is screening online until June 26. For more information and tickets, see Fuel Theatre’s website.