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Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DA
Ended 11 Aug 2007 after 3 months
"Strachan's meticulous revival keeps unwanted laughter at bay and brings out the hidden play underneath the colonialist corruption."
A crime of passion, a mysterious letter and forbidden love in the tropical heat of 1927 Malaya (today's Malaysia), W. Somerset Maugham's The Letter is a humid melodrama that transcends more than just the inherent corruption and racism in European colonists at the height of the British Empire.
The Wyndhams production, directed by Alan Strachan and staring Jenny Seagrove and Anthony Andrews (of Brideshead Revisited fame) was the third revival of this play, although it has seen a fair few adaptations since opening in the West End over 80 years ago, notably an Oscar nominated film noir version starring Bette Davis in 1940.
Based on the real life crime of society wife of a headmaster in Kula Lumpur, Maugham adapted the play from his own short story, and although it is not as well known as his other works, it is generally seen as a meticulus and emotionally layered play that says something different the longer it lasts.
On the steamy plantation of the absent Robert Crosbie, a gunshot is heard, and later followed by the perpetrator, his blank-faced wife Leslie, who seems undeterred by the crime she has just committed. Standing over her victim, the neighbour Geoff Hammond, she protests it as an act of self defence in the face of attempted rape. Although she is soon arrested, it seems that she will be soon freed.
The rather gullible Robert hires a fastidious lawyer, Howard who's investigation into the scene causes him to confront two large obstacles, one, his burgeoning, but forbidden feelings for Bob, and two, the fact that a very incriminating letter from Leslie has been unearthed. Now his own moral conscience is plagued, should he risk his livelihood to obtain the letter by illegal means and save his client from the gallows? Or should he stay straight, in more ways than one...
Opening night: 1 May 2007
Closing night: 11 August 2007
The Letter may be inappropriate for children aged 12 and under. Children under 4 years of age will not be admitted into the Wyndhams Theatre.
2 hours 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
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