Love Letters Straight From Your Heart**** (Battersea Arts Centre, 7 November 2013)

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

With its title taken from a line in a popular song, recorded by Elvis Presley among many others, here we have a show, presented by the theatre makers Uninvited Guests and Fuel, which, unashamedly, promotes romance and challenges the very heart of traditional British reserve. We are handed a glass of Cava on arrival and then seated around a large oblong table, draped in bright red and adorned with vases of deep red roses and party poppers. The presenters, Richard Dufty and Jessica Hoffmann, are seated at either end of the table, controlling proceedings. At first sight, they look more like office workers than performers, but they loosen up as the evening proceeds. We then hear a medley of romantic songs, starting with Lionel Bart’s Where is Love? The answer to that question is that it is all around us, all over the world, in the past, present and future. It is shared, unrequited, forever, fleeting, found, lost, true and tainted. The medley culminates with Ewan MacColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (in a version by Johnny Cash), for the duration of which each audience member is asked to look directly into the eyes of the person opposite. Audience members were asked in advance to send in dedications to loved ones, with requests for specific tracks and the reading of the dedications is at the centre of the evening. Some or all of the dedicators may indeed have been present at this performance, but the quality and poignancy of the writing casts suspicion over this. We hear missives to lovers, mothers, brothers; Adam to Lucy, Simon to Ruth, Amy to Oscar. We are told of love transcending personality clashes, geographical separation and language barriers. Finally, we hear from Karen of a lifelong unrequited love, read to the accompaniment of Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You by Glenn Medeiros. Memo to Karen: if you were really in the audience at this performance, your beautiful words cannot be allowed to die after just one reading – please get your dedication published. After this, things get rowdier, with Jess haring around the room to the sound of Kate Bush, Richard contributing a drunken dad dance to Florence and the Machine, more Cava and group dance. This show has been going around for quite a while and long may it continue to re-surface. It has a lovely simplicity and never gets bogged down with cliches or becomes too sugary. It moves effortlessly between the heartwarming and the heartbreaking and it is ultimately a life-affirming triumph.

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