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412 Letters

Adverse Camber / Union Theatre, London

 

"Well worth seeing - an hour and a quarter reconfirming the worth and quality of fringe theatre Two excellent performances and a slice of life insight into their relationship which leave you wanting to see more. They are funny, sad, unresolved and have echos and mirrors of all relationships. Well directed and thought out stage design all make for a solid, tight and very entertaining play which should be given a chance to be seen by many more."

 

Fanny Taylor

Whatsonstage.com

April 2006

 

"Matthew Wilkie's tale, 412 Letters exams the problematic lesbian relationship between two young women, Charlotte and Ros. Charlotte, chasing the dream of becoming a writer, is a drinker, smoker and a bit of a slob when it comes to domestic duties; Ros, on the other hand is frightfully house-proud, holds down a steady marketing job, and tends to mother - or is it manage? - Charlotte a bit too much! The first flushes of love have very quickly given way to the reality of two very different souls trying to make a go of a relationship that is all but doomed from the start. The play opens with Ros turning up at her ex-partner s flat, post breakup, to collect her belongs, only to discover that all the letters she has written to her ex lover, are now being used as the basis for the would-be writers latest attempt at literary discovery!

"Jacqui Somerville s direction of the two-woman cast of Emma Field-Rayner (Ros) and Louise Kempton (Charlotte) has produced a production that is certainly polished. Add to this a succinct set and moody lighting plan and the whole can be deemed an entertaining evenings theatre. Recommended!"

 

Dale Maitland Cartwright

North London Press

April 2006

 

"Matthew Wilkie's new play 412 Letters focuses on the interactions between two young women as their long relationship draws to a close. The two could almost be seen to function as one another's alter egos, with one, a seemingly more sensitive, compulsive cleaner, while her counterpart is disorganised, and independent. But, if you're imagining Wilkie's play as little more than a feminised take on Neil Simon's similarly mismatched, male-oriented play The Odd Couple guess again. This two-hander focuses on two engaging females who are both decidedly contemporary characters.

"Upon entering the theatre, one almost surreptiously stumbles upon a rather ingenious, square, black art-installation inspired stage set, upon which the actresses occupy themselves whilst the audience move to their seats. Within the top of the square black platform, rows of white envelopes glow from inlaid, under-lit, glass topped encasements which, conversely, form their own square, highlighting the importance of the letters of the title to the storyline and structure of the play. In reality, hand-written, personal letters, (increasingly rare in our era of technology), could be seen as bite-sized chunks of life, encapsulating a moment in time between writer and reader. Perhaps this is why the archival notions the entombed envelopes suggest seem so apt.

"The storyline of 412 Letters is a well-presented one, although, perhaps, not unusual two women, on the verge of breaking up, one reluctant to part, the other, seemingly, eager to go her own way. The love between them isn't dead, but their compatibility appears to be, though it is immediately clear that they've had little in common from the outset. As the play begins, aspiring novelist Charlotte, a feisty young woman with a head of wiry, red curls, sits on the floor, in her pyjamas, in the late afternoon typing on a typewriter with two fingers. Her ex-partner Ros drops in, on her way home from work, and the two agree to take a break. By contrast, visiting Ros is an icily well-groomed blonde. Perhaps her love of order is one of many reasons why she hovers close to the edge, whilst her more unruly counterpart is philosophical, even though she, according to society's conventions at least, appears to be courting disaster with her unstructured lifestyle. Order versus chaos, structure as opposed to no structure.

"The only things Charlotte has kept in order are the 412 letters her former lover, Ros has sent her over the years. This has not been done out of sentimentality alone, as one might think, but out of the fledgling novelists need to sort out a believable plot for her latest literary venture. Some of the productions finest moments occur when Emma Field Rayner as Ros speaks the lines of her letters in a small spotlight, following their introduction, complete with date written and word count, from former lover Charlotte.

"Personal letters can be a Pandora's box of secrets, but this story within the story in 412 Letters concerns not so much the content of the letters Charlotte has selected for her novel, as much as what aspects of their writer Ros' character they reflect. More than anything else, Charlotte longs to be a novelist, while, more than anything else, Ros longs for Charlotte. From this perspective, the play seems to be more Ros' story than that of her free-wheeling ex, Charlotte, who has chosen to draw on the many letters her poetic ex partner has written to enliven, what she perceives as her own dull writing style. How their relationship dissolves pushes the envelope, especially in terms of the outstanding acting of both Emma Field-Rayner as modern career girl Ros, and Louise Kempton as thoroughly spunky Charlotte. The action alternates between scenes involving both actresses, and Charlotte, introducing one particular letter from her ex-lover Ros followed by the actress speaking the words of the heartfelt letter she has written.

"The set features as its centre-point another square within a square, which cleverly opens its flaps to allow the actresses to sit without chairs, inside its sections, facing various parts of their audience, during most of their scenes. When they are sitting together the audience gets to access the various stages of their relationship during flashbacks so crucial to the audience's understanding of their present situation. The efficient starkness of the set, as well as the smart tone of the production itself seem entirely in keeping with the mood of the Tate Modern and its surrounding enclaves of luxury flats, and minimalist watering holes and eateries.

"Taut directing from Jacqui Somerville enabled both actresses to interact closely, although, at times, seemingly, from afar, whilst maintaining the gathering tension their growing emotional distance created. And unforeseen twists in the story, much like those featured in a novel, allowed the play to provide some surprises, not so much at the end of the road, but in the getting there. The audience's positive response to both of the excellent performances at the conclusion of 412 Letters was well-deserved."

 

Mary Couzens

Extra! Extra!

April 2006

 

"I was here to review Matthew Wilkie s new play. I remember the last play he had here, an absolute blinder that I felt was the best of a recent Union Shorts season, so was keen to see what he had come up with this time.

"What I found was something completely different from what I had expected; this was a two-hander, though backed by an impressive collection of names that were the Creative Team . Ros and Charlotte, the protagonists, had at their disposal Movement Consultants, Voice Workers, a Production Consultant and so on. I was impressed. I was very impressed with Leslie Travers set design and Steve Miller s lighting design was spot on, but I had my doubts about the input of the costume designer: Ros Marketing Executive was dressed like a skint student from out of town, and Charlotte s novelist (though hardly published) like a smackhead. And the Voice worker s efforts were wasted on Louise Kempton as all the girls that come out of Rose Bruford College talk like Deptford mooshies. Which is what makes them raw, gritty and real.

"Despite the too many cooks syndrome, this is a nice little play. Ros and Charlotte had been lovers, had split up and had found it hard staying away from each other. Charlotte had found solace in her writing, novelising the 412 Letters she had received from Ros in their time together; 412 Letters she had never replied to. In flashback we hear how the letters spoke of Ros missing Charlotte when she was away on business trips, of how Charlotte never answered the phone when Ros called, and of unrequited love."

 

Michael Holland

Southwark News

April 2006

 

"In a new writing market saturated with plays about Iraq and terrorism, it is something of a relief to discover Matthew Wilkie s intensely personal two hander about the end of a love affair.

"Meeting again for the first time since their break-up, Ros discovers her ex-lover Charlotte busy writing a novel based on the 412 love letters of the play s title, written to her over the course of their relationship.

"Initially outraged at the thought of their private life being used as fictional fodder, Ros soon becomes drawn into Charlotte s re-reading of their shared history and the pair come to appreciate that only a combination of their very different qualities can draw the narrative of their relationship together in a way that makes sense."

 

Nuala Calvi

The Stage Online

April 2006

 

"Something sweet emerges - a personal play about a love that just isn't strong enough, for now, to overcome antagonisms and wounds that can be healed elsewhere"

 

Brian Logan

Time Out

April 2006

 

412 Letters

Theatre 64, Hampshire

 

"This summer, Theatre 64, Yateley's 'home' theatre group, has enjoyed considerable success on the local play festival circuit, winning no less than eight nominations and awards. The fact that the two plays receiving these awards were both written by society members, makes this success all the more noteworthy, and the home crowd were given the opportunity to view both productions last week.

 

"Matthew Wilkie's play, 412 Letters, revealed the dilemma experienced by sloppy Charlotte, who has kept all the letters she received from her highly organised lover Ros over the years. Notwithstanding the feelings they still have for one another, the parting of the ways became inevitable, only for them to find that living apart can bring heartache too.

 

"A most entertaining and thought-provoking evening."

 

Barrie Theobald

Reading Chronicle

November 2005

 

Dark Sometimes

Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe

 

"(Matthew Wilkie) maintains a gripping pace - no small achievement, given that it's a solo performance. Anthony Allgood plays a suspect in the disappearances, and a foreign forensics expert, but he's mainly Brady, the local bobby, shuffled to one side by the top brass when the case assumes national importance; yet he's clearly the only man to crack it. He's got his own issues - breathing difficulties and a fear of the dark - but he's a solid, if shook-up, copper."

 

Jay Richardson

The Scotsman

August 2005

 

"Dark Sometimes is a clever, tightly written supernatural piece."

 

Richard Biggs

Hairline

August 2005

 

Horst Buchholz and Other Stories

Union Theatre, London

 

"This has to be the Union's best season of shorts so far. Walk into the theatre and enjoy the sensation of being in an old fashioned British pub complete with dodgy brass decorations and framed pictures of the landlord's German Shepherd. Then sit back and enjoy a wonderful selection of well written and brilliantly acted short plays.

 

"Horst Buchholz and Other Stories is probably my favourite. The Infamous Five, an unsuccessful pub quiz team, meet up once again to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Stuart Draper stands out as a middle-aged geek called George."

 

Sarah Monaghan

Theatreworld Internet Magazine

June 2005

 

"One-act plays have a different impact from full (or fuller) length ones. Anecdote-like in conciseness and punch, they need tight structuring and enough substance not to become simply sketches Well-done, they have their own, currently under-represented, place. And they provide good training for new writers. So there's a double gain in the Union Theatre's practice (in its 8th year) of putting on an evening of brief new pieces. This year's common theme is the old-style British pub.

 

"Two pieces stand out, both making intrinsic use of their theatrical devices. Andrew Muir's The Waterman seems to have a pub bore rambling on to a silent, seated drinker. Eventually a point becomes clear, before the play introduces the kind of supernatural element sanctioned since The Sixth Sense emerged from Hollywood, using it to explore the speaker's moral fabric.

 

"Similarly, the soliloquies interrupting the pub quiz in Matthew Wilkie's Horst Buchholz and Other Stories are not just a structural device. Among the fevered camaraderie and emotional fissures of a team whose leader has a special motivation for winning tonight, the solo speeches take us into each member's private domain. Focused skillfully by a question about actors in The Magnificent Seven this is a tightly-constructed, acutely-shaped little drama."

 

Timothy Ramsden

reviewsgate.com

June 2005

 

"Here's to the great British institution that is the Pub! Now in is seventh successful year, The Union has once again produced a season of new short plays. This year features a celebration of fresh new writing inspired by that great British institution - the Pub. At times deeply moving, the quirky, funny, pint-sized plays all take place in the familiar beer stained surroundings of what could easily be anyone's local. Complete with karaoke machine, the set design is superb and will make you feel right at home.

 

"The pub quiz takes a satirical bashing in Horst Buchholz and Other Stories. Stuart Draper is excellent as the uptight, pistol-wielding George. Having placed a ridiculously large bet with their arch-rival team, 'the flying underpants', George is particularly keen to win."

 

Emma Whitelaw

Indie London

June 2005

 

"This year's season of new short plays at the Union takes the London pub as its theme. On Agnes Hasar's set, which evokes the traditions of beer-stained mats and soggy crisps, seven shorts offer a vision of British pub life.

 

"Two of the longer shorts - Matthew Wilkie's Horst Buchholz and Other Stories, directed by Jaqui Somerville, and Terry Adlam's Karaoke Nights, directed by Sasha Regan - lovingly recreate the drama of pub quiz nights and karaoke birthday parties. Wilkie's decision to innovate in terms of dramatic form is particularly welcome."

 

Aleks Sierz

The Stage

June 2005

 

"It was early doors at the Union Theatre with the bar quickly filling up with customers for Pub, the theatre's annual festival of short plays; this year set in an old style boozer.

 

"Horst Buchholz and Other Stories by Matthew Wilkie told the tale of a pub quiz team beset by internal and personal problems. George is the zealous leader who has foolishly had a thousand pound bet on the quiz, Jules and Rich have a marriage break up half way through the questions, and Tim seems to be soon arrested for inappropriate behaviour with a Year eleven girl. The work had a great ending and ended the first half leaving the audience wanting more."

 

Michale Holland

Southwark News

June 2005

 

"The Union's seventh annual collection of shorts is a tribute to that endangered species, the good old British boozer, with all seven plays using the same reassuringly cheesy pub set.

 

"This (includes) a largely amusing pub quiz skit by Matthew Wilkie featuring Stuart Draper as sad-sack George, who has unwisely bet a grand that his team win on the very night it disintegrates all together."

 

Jonathan Gibbs

Time Out

June 2005

 

A Christmas Carol

Theatre 64, Hampshire

 

“What a clever adaptation of Charles Dickens’ famous story this proved to be.

 

“Using four carol singers as singing narrators (Sue Driscoll, Mike Hills, Russ Pitcher and Caroline Reeves) to guide us through the plot, we were introduced to most of the well-known characters from the book.

 

“Dennis Windsor (Ebenezer Scrooge) required him to be on stage for the majority of the performance, during which time we witnessed the subtle change in his character from miser to benefactor.

 

“In her first role with the group, Vicky Shillingford displayed considerable stage presence as the Ghost of Christmas Past and stalwart member Nick Felgate gave a jovial portrayal as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

 

“Cameo performance from many of the large cast, including those fro Chris Ward (Bob Cratchit), Carole Fowler (Mrs Cratchit) and Robin Honey (Tiny Tim) brought the storyline to it’s happy conclusion.

 

“Humbug?  Certainly not this show!”

 

Barrie Theobald

Reading Chronicle

January 2002

 

Between Stars

Theatre 64, Hampshire

 

Between Stars by Matthew Wilkie had a very atmospheric set, excellent lighting and music and some strong acting by a good cast, which brought the play to life. 

 

“It was about three astronauts in a badly damaged spaceship, running out of everything, waiting for the rescue mission that doesn’t come. 

 

“Riveting stuff.”

 

Tandem

Reading Chronicle

August 2001

 

Shopping for Shoes

Theatre 64, Hampshire

 

“Here’s a minimalist but imaginatively staged episodic play adopting an unusual retrospective storyline to explore the friendship between four youths both before and after tragedy befalls them.

 

“Maxine (Suzanne Marsh) is preparing for her umpteenth driving test when Zoe (Fiona Scott) informs her she has no intention of marrying Alan (Russ Pitcher) and, after trying on umpteen shoes, is to inform him of her desire to travel to India.

 

“Meantime, Jim confides his desire to open a shop stoking umpteen cheeses to Alan who is faffing about trying to give up smoking for the umpteen time. Then, Zoe is murdered and the boundaries of their bonding are tested.

 

“This new play by Matthew Wilkie shows the superficiality of youth until confronted by life’s realities.”

 

Bill Herron

Reading Chronicle

August 1999

 

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