Ray and Gloria swenson
By A.R Gurney
Brisbane Arts Theatre
Season runs until February 14. Bookings: www.artstheatre.com.au/loveletters
Warming tender hearts across Brisbane’s city centre, Love Letters is a feel-good story you’ll fall head over heels for.
Presented by Brisbane Arts Theatre, for a limited season, this tragi-comedy is sweet, funny and a guaranteed easy night out. Following the story of two lovers, who share a lifetime of experiences, audiences bounced between 50-years of friendship via handwritten love letters. The touching romance dived through highs and lows of any relationship and audiences were reminded how easy love can bloom through old-fashioned pen and paper correspondence.
The simple and twisting tale has received much industry recognition, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Many have flocked to see Love Letters performed around the world, as its staging is simple, and the play easily connects in any theatre or space.
At Brisbane Arts Theatre, the same rang true. There were no fancy lighting plots, no heavy direction, no exuberant set pieces and no crazy costuming. It was essentially two humans, sharing their love story and delivering the spoken word artfully.
Speaking directly on matters from the heart, the actors took turns to flick through notes guised as letters (and set up in a script-like book). They sat either side, at tables which loosely reflected the different tastes between characters. Jests, stories and quirks were then ping-ponged between the two, and the audience looked-on as the wordy tennis match played out before them.
The content within each letter helped formulate imaginative storylines and realisations. It was easy to envisage the contrasting lives, as stories swept through the intrigued atmosphere to dance around in individual minds. It was captivating, and the emotional tales had the audience onboard a relationship rollercoaster.
Delivering the compelling truths was real-life married couple, Gloria Swenson and Ray Swenson. Unsurprisingly, their chemistry was undeniable. Although the two never actually conversed face to face during the show, their comfortable presence was evident, and allowed them to enrich two-dimensional characters. Words naturally translated with audiences, and at times we caught cheeky glimpses between the pair.
In a character sense, Gloria perfected the wild and carefree artist, Melissa and contrastingly, Ray was sophisticated as the intelligent and wealthy, Andrew. Together, they were yin and yang, and a duo you wanted to see more of.
Love Letters explored the meaning behind love and the variety of forms it comes in – first love, physical attraction, marriage, heartbreak and tragedy. Although an interval existed in the middle of the show, it really wasn’t needed. The audience had clearly embraced its simplicity and needed not to have a break from it. The play is short enough to stand as its own one-act.
Overall, Love Letters reminded patrons how easy love was in a time of no video calling or social networking. The play was romantic, yielding and fits perfectly in February where Valentine’s Day looms.
Brisbane Arts Theatre has presented a classic that will be enjoyed by many. It’s endearing, touching and extraordinarily special (especially for the artists playing the main characters).