|Hanna Waterman and Hugh Higginson in "Love Letters"
Director: Denny Lawrence
Designer: Jacob Battista
Lighting Design: Jason Bovaird
Producer: Christine Harris & HIT Productions
The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre - May 21 – 24th
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Ever since it was first performed by the author himself in 1988, A.R. Gurney’s celebrated play “Love Letters” has been a favourite among name actors. Exploring a relationship between two lifelong friends through their letters to each other, it requires little rehearsal and the lines don’t have to be memorised.
However this production which had its premiere performances at the Q in Queanbeyan before embarking on an extensive Australasian tour, and which stars Huw Higginson (P.C.George Garfield in “The Bill”) and Hannah Waterman (Laura Beale in “Eastenders”) shows all the signs of a meticulous rehearsal period by director Denny Lawrence and his cast.
Melissa Gardner (played by Hannah Waterman as feisty, rebellious and determined to lead her own life) and Andy Ladd ([played by Huw Higginson as compliant, thoughtful and co-operative) is childhood friends. Both born into wealthy New York families, they begin writing to each other with tentative holiday postcards, birthday invitations and ‘Thank you’ letters.As they move on to boarding school, college and beyond, they stay in touch through a series of letters that explore their blossoming hopes for romance as well as their change in fortunes. Andy becomes a celebrated lawyer with political ambitions. Mellissa leaves a trail of controversy and school expulsions, eventually becoming an artist.
Through 50 years of laughter, pain, re-unions and estrangements, the bond between the two remains unbreakable. As his life reaches for the glory of the U.S. Senate, hers descends into trouble and rejection.
The staging is simplicity itself. Both actors stand at elegant, transparent lecterns, separated by an arched window. Images of butterflies, leaves and rain are projected on to the window, together with subtle lighting changes to denote the passage of time.
The actors avoid eye contact with each other, and their faces light up only when speaking their own lines. In lesser actors, this static staging could become boring, but despite their television fame, both Waterman and Higginson are consummate stage actors boasting substantial stage credits between them. Their performances are lessons in superb stagecraft, skilful pacing and restraint. They allow their characters come to life through A.R.Gurney’s exquisitely discerning words. In the process they are fascinating, often frequently funny and ultimately very moving.
Should this production come your way, do make an effort to catch it. You’ll be glad you did.Photos by Belinda Strodden
This review appears in Australian Arts Review . www.artsreview.com.au