Last night I went to the Royal Albert Hall, to attend – for the first time ever – Letters Live in London.
Letters Live is a live celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence. Each show always features a completely different array of great performers, reading remarkable letters written over the centuries and from around the world. One of the joys of Letters Live is that one never knows who is going to take to the stage or what letter they are going to bring alive.
Letters Live has brought to the stage letters written by people as varied as David Bowie, Marge Simpson, Mohandas Gandhi, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Kurt Vonnegut, Charlotte Bronte, Richard Burton and Che Guevara, and has seen the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliet Stevenson, Ian McKellen, Kylie Minogue, Russell Brand, Caitlin Moran, Matt Berry, Louise Brealey, Tom Sturridge, Ellie Bamber, Tom Hiddleston, Sally Hawkins, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Stephen Fry, Jude Law and Sir Ben Kingsley deliver unique and extraordinary performances. (x)
It was honestly one of the best nights ever. I laughed so much to the point I cried. My stomach still hurts from all the laughter. It was truly a great entertainment. I saw so many of my fave reading their letters, imagining a different life while reading those sentences. It was a very powerful evening, with the most amazing people.
Stephen Fry opened the evening and the audience went wild, when he took the stage. He read three letters during the night but the one closest to my heart was one that he wrote in response to a person who was struggling with mental health and they reached out to him. I cried. It was a bit too close to home I suppose. While he was reading, I was thinking how it would have affected me to hear these words when I was struggling with my depression…
Crystal Clarke was my best surprise on this event. I didn’t know her before and I am stunned by her talent. Crystal read a letter from MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry who addressed Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s controversial comments on rape. Mr. Mourdock stated in a debate that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen,” and in response Harris-Perry sent him an open letter where she discussed her own experience as a sexual assault survivor. It was the strongest performance of that night.
Benedict Cumberbatch had the auditorium filled up with laughter when he read up a hospital form filled out by an unnamed man who managed to get his genitalia stuck in a toilet paper holder. The form required him to explain the reasons of being admitted to the hospital and so he shared the embarrassing moments that led to this disastrous accident and the rescue that followed.
All great, great performances and I was in awe of everyone who was there yesterday. But! without question the best part of this night for me was, when Olivia Colman took the stage!!! She is just the cutest human being and when she read her letter which was written by the Queen Mother to her mother-in-law, Queen Mary, in 1940 during the Second World War, the night reached its peak point.
“It does affect me seeing this terrible and senseless destruction – I think that really I mind it much more than being bombed myself.”
When she reached the end of the letter the audience started to clap a tad too early and she asked us to just hold on for one more second and she read the last sentence:
“P.S. Dear old B.P. is still standing and that is the main thing”,
She then chuckled, waved, blew some kisses and left the stage. And I was charmed. Completely. She is really as magnificent as you would think. Unbelievable and yet, true. I just really wanna sit down with her and get hammered on some gin & tonic. It would be the most hilarious night of my life.
And the absolute WTF moment of the night was, when Rory Stewart took to the stage and read a letter penned by Boris Johnson’s former house master, Martin Hammond.
This letter constitutes my resignation from the Conservative Party
Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School.
We also had Florence Welsh, Benedict Cumberbatch, Louise Brealey, Asim Chaudhry, Alan Carr, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jude Law on the stage of this sold out venue. Their stories made you cry, warmed your heart, made you angry, and made you laugh. They were all carefully chosen, beautifully written and perfectly performed.
It might have been my first Letters live, but it was certainly not my last! Thank you Everyone, who organised/worked/assisted/performed on this event. I am really grateful.