Theatre Royal Windsor
Reviewed – 13th October 2020
“Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove are perfectly cast for this agreeably wry game of theatrical tennis”
Windsor’s Theatre Royal successfully re-opened last night with A.R. Gurney’s gentle hit ‘Love Letters’ starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove. The affection in which this lovely old theatre is held locally was evident in the warm reception given to Producer Bill Kenwright as he paid tribute to the team behind the show and welcomed the audience back. He also announced ‘Windsor on Air’ – a new season of radio style one week runs which includes hits like ‘The Lady in the Van’ and Tom Conti and Felicity Kendal in ‘Lloyd George Knew my Father’. A comprehensive set of measures ensure audience safety, including serving drinks to your seat.
‘Love Letters’ began in 1988 as an epistolatory novel, but it soon became a big Broadway hit. It’s a play which ‘needs no theatre, no special set, no memorization of lines’. The two characters sit at desks at 60 degrees to each other and read letters and cards which chart a half century of hectic and privileged East Coast American living. A glittering roster of past performers has included the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Ali MacGraw – and even Larry Hagman.
At its soft heart the play is about maintaining togetherness through separation, as childhood sweethearts stay close by correspondence, as their lives dramatically diverge. Only in the last, poignant moments does one character finally look at the other.
Martin Shaw (‘Judge John Deed’ and many others) and Jenny Seagrove (‘Peak Practice’, ‘Judge John Deed’, the film ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ and much more) are perfectly cast for this agreeably wry game of theatrical tennis. The writing is excellent, particularly in the second half, when the pair of elementary students grow into adults. She is a ‘lascivious old dame’ and he a ‘shifty [but very successful] bastard’. His dogged defence of the power of letter-writing gets gently patted back by her one-liners and aching silences.
Roy Marsden directs this bittersweet and delightful Pulitzer-listed comedy with a light touch.
Reviewed by David Woodward
Photography Simon Vail
Theatre Royal Windsor until 17th October
Previously reviewed by David: