A review of Seven Letters by Sean Hutton
It was a delight to see a production of this play, written and directed by Rian Flatley, upstairs in the London Irish Centre recently. The play itself has a theme not often related to the word ‘delight’, as it concerns the life of a group of elderly women in a care home. However, the focus here – in this excellently constructed and delivered play – is on the resilience of its elderly subjects.
The leading role in the play is that of Faye – a feisty Irish extravert in her old age. Old Fay is played with aplomb by Teresa Jennings, while Young Fay is represented by Charlotte Reynolds. Her sensitive delivery of spoken narratives and moving songs (set to original music by Lindsay Bridgwater) enhance Old Fay’s exchanges and flashbacks.
A section of the play which contributes greatly to its comedic element is the daily ritual of the completion of the crossword by the three friends, in which Tempie (Clare Gollop) reads out the clues, while Lena (Kate Winder) and Old Fay attempt to suggest the answers. The lively good nature of their Puck–like carer Summer (Alice Taylor) in looking after them emphasises the way in which this is also a play about human feelings and youth and old age.
Mary Drake had three smaller parts to play: that of Fay’s Gran, that of Hannah, who is also a resident of the care home, who is forgetful and anxious to go home, and that of Shelley. Shelley has a key role towards the conclusion of the play, as the inmates become anxious at the disappearance of Summer and the appearance of this new and less humane carer. It is then that we also observe, in a brief and moving sequence, the increasing anxiety of the inmates as to the future, as the stage lights close down.
This is a play to be seen, and enjoyed, if you can possibly catch a performance.
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