Published in Edfringereview
Parental applause and parental laughter is different from every other kind. You can spot it a mile off, the patronising approbation that comes not from a sincere appraisal of a performance, but from love. Which is fair enough when you’re a child but when you reach 18 and all the privileges that come with it, you renounce all rights to the safety of patronising praise. Nevertheless, this cowed the rest of us into applauding out of politeness, too – not that they had earned it.
Letting Go is a cock-eyed cavalcade of vignettes based around the sending and receiving of letters, by lovers young and old. It’s just as well so many parents turned up, because they might just be old enough to remember what letters were. Thankfully, after seeing Letting Go, we young Turks in the audience will appreciate that letters were things people wrote to tell things to other people. If you were looking for a deeper or more interesting analysis of the culture of letter-writing – and there are important and interesting things to be said, which no play I know has – you won’t find it here.
What you will find is a barrage of juvenile sentiment and tiresome correspondence clichés (lovesick adolescents, the break-up letter, the soldier abroad writing home, ad nauseam) and an equally predictable choice of musical accompaniment e.g. “Please Mr Postman” by The Saturdays (they could have chosen the 1961 version by The Marvelettes, the 1963 version by The Beatles or even the most famous 1974 version by The Carpenters, and yet they went with The Saturdays, though I expect they’re too young to remember the cultural artefacts of the last century).
The poor acting can be forgiven – indeed, there were occasional glimpses of talent – it is the writing that I am commenting on here. For a child, the author demonstrates a remarkable command of the English language and an awareness of the great themes of great art, stuff like sex and war. Unfortunately the author, Simon Parker, is not a child. This negates the compliment somewhat. For sex, Mr Parker is keen to tell us that it sometimes happens and it sometimes doesn’t. For war, Mr Parker is keen to tell us that it sometimes happens and it sometimes doesn’t. Well, I suppose one might call that awareness. Between scenes there are a series of physical routines performed to music, like rolling on the floor amid a pile of envelopes, or sellotaping envelopes to each other, or gagging each other with envelopes, or pretending to set envelopes alight. Clearly, Mr Parker likes envelopes. He presumably thought that this was evocative. Well, it evokes many things in my mind but probably not what he was hoping for.
Some constructive criticism. First, the twelve year-old commissioning director at Bending Angels productions needs to be sent back to school and, after receiving a cultural education, possibly re-appointed.
Meanwhile, somebody – a mother, I expect, would be most effective at this – needs to have a word with Mr Parker and communicate to him that a career in the theatre is not very likely to go anywhere. Preferably, she would do so via a letter.
(Not that Mr Parker, if his script is anything to by, would know what irony is.)