Arts Festival Review: The Letter Writer

Published: Mon 8 Mar 2010 02:12 PM
Arts Festival Review: The Letter WriterReview by Kimberley Crayton-Brown
The Letter Writer
Written and directed by Juliet O’Brien
Circa Theatre
7, 8, 11–15, 18–21 March
Described as “a suspense story and transcendent love story which affirms the power of the human spirit”, The Letter Writer was surprisingly funny.
Expecting a tense, serious story of a man seeking political asylum and yearning for the wife he left behind, the comedic elements of the performance provided a nice buffer between the more intense scenes.
The cast were brilliant, with Peter Hambleton delivering a strong performance as the letter writer (Mr Rouvesquen), and on stage for the majority of the show. Hired by Lansko to help with his application for political asylum (and later to write love letters to his wife Leila), Mr Rouvesquen becomes the central character of the story as he forms a friendship with Lansko, and as one audience member said afterwards “becomes more human”.
The stage was very well used, with a moveable set that was incorporated into the performance. The letter writer’s office was the main focus, with quirky clients requiring his writing skills appearing between scenes of people in another country living in constant fear. Music, lighting and shadows were used to eerie effect, particularly when depicting the fear and torture in Lansko’s homeland.
As the audience laughed at the many comical moments delivered by Tim Gordon (playing multiple characters, he was one of the standout performances in the show), they also fell silent as the more serious themes of the story were portrayed.
A young man fleeing his homeland for a safer, better life, leaving behind a pregnant wife who is – unbeknownst to him – tortured and killed. His struggle to adapt to a new country and apply for citizenship, and the letter writer who takes him under his wing only to betray him. The letter writer who develops a fatherly closeness to Lansko, and in doing what he thinks is best for the young man only ends up pushing him away.
When The Letter Writer ended, members of the audience stood to applaud the cast and crew for a wonderful opening night performance. With French and New Zealand cast members, the success of the show is as much due to the audience feeling a true connection to the characters as a well-written storyline. Some members of the audience had tears in their eyes, and the applause continued for several minutes, with every second of it well-deserved.
Arts Festival website: The Letter Writer
Scoop Full Coverage: Arts Festival 2010

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