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Spirited play with emotional power at Colne's Little Theatre

Marilyn Crowther gave a vivid performance as artist and alcoholic Melissa in Love Letters at The Little Theatre, Colne, on Wednesday. (s)
Marilyn Crowther gave a vivid performance as artist and alcoholic Melissa in Love Letters at The Little Theatre, Colne, on Wednesday. (s)
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A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters is a tender and spirited piay about the relationship - from childhood friends to love interests - between the seemingly mismatched Andrew and Melissa, both rich and privileged.

Colne Dramatic Society is having a crack at it this week at the Little Theatre and despite having two actors taking it in turns to play Melissa, it’s as charming as you could imagine.

The play tracks the lives of the pair as they write letters back and forth, beginning with childhood thank you cards and developing into long, deep and intimate confessions.

Love Letters is a static and stripped down show - there is no action, props are minimal, and the actors read from the page rather than memorising their lines.

All of the spotlight is on the emotional power of the script’s words, the vibrancy of character and the intimacy of written correspondence.

The actors - Alan Bailey as Andrew and Marilyn Crowther or Carolanne Connolly as Melissa - must create connection and chemistry between the characters without all the usual trappings of theatre.

But in Wednesday night’s show, Alan and Marilyn performed beautifully, lifting the words off the page and creating a believable and moving relationship between the characters.

Marilyn vividly captured the wild wit of artist and rebel Melissa in the face of alcoholism and parental neglect, while Alan was charming as the practical, stoic and idealistic politician Andrew.

Wednesday’s performance lacked a sharp emotional edge at a key point but I think this was down to the format of the play - everything is revealed through letter alone - and perhaps it’s one of the story’s key points.

The suddenness of this plot development added realism and emphasised the repressed nature of Andy and Melissa’s star-crossed romance.

The story was also full of fun and comedy but a few jokes had a racist edge and made me feel uncomfortable, especially coming from a protagonist in a love story.

Still, the play retains it relevance in this digital age when email and Facebook messenger have replaced letters as a means for swapping secrets and tracking the lives of old friends over distance and time.

Just like their romance, Andy and Melissa were both raw and real in their letters, and as modern audiences know, many of whom find online correspondence a safer means to bare their souls to other human beings, this can at once make life both beautiful and unfulfilling, creating a poignant and moving tale.

Performances continue tonight and tomorrow at 7-30pm. Book on 01282 861424.