The Letter – January 2007

5/10

By: Somerset Maugham

Directed by: Alan Strachan

Venue: Theatre Royal, Brighton

Date: Tuesday 16th January 2007

This was a play adapted by the author from his own story. Set in Malaya, it’s an account of the trial of a woman for murder, following her shooting of a man who, she claims, tried to rape her. But is it that clear cut? Well, the title’s a bit of a giveaway, as you know there’s going to be a letter involved somewhere along the line, which will have a crucial bearing on guilt or innocence. And the plot doesn’t have many more twists than a willow wand, but the performances were good enough (although I couldn’t make out Jenny Seagrove too well in the early stages) and the story was watchable enough to make it an enjoyable evening. At least Maugham gets some good humour into the writing, and the characterisations have more detail than average, although we’re so used to his style now that there are few surprises. The set was rampant colonial, with bamboo screens being moved hither, thither and yon during scene changes, and the theatre was so stuffy I found myself nodding off a bit during the first half (that, and a very late night yesterday). Still, a decent play and very watchable, especially for the Chinese lawyer milking the letter situation for all it’s worth.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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