Love Letters, Bungay

This was a historic occasion for Bungay. For the first time in 157 years, people were able to say: "I'm going to the theatre," rather than just: "I'm going to a play."

By TERRY REEVE

This was a historic occasion for Bungay. For the first time in 157 years, people were able to say: “I'm going to the theatre,” rather than just: “I'm going to a play.”

And it was a joyous evening for Bungay Arts and Theatre Society – Love Letters the first production staged at the theatre, which closed as such in 1844, since the sheer determination and dedication of members enabled the society to buy it and start returning it to its original use.

There were other productions in the building over the years, the last about 50 years ago, but that was when it was a corn hall, later a cinema, and no longer called a theatre.

But now it is again, and this production on Friday and Saturday evening before large audiences did it justice. It had comedy, drama, melodrama and pathos – just the ingredients David Fisher, who founded his series of theatres in the region, envisaged when Bungay opened in 1828.

American playwright A. R. Gurney's script sees two characters read and respond to love letters over a period of 45 to 50 years and consider opportunities wasted.

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There is fun, hilarity, humanity, anger, frustration, and love woven into the relationship kept together by a thread, whose love is there but who never quite make it as emotions, parents, ambition and, inevitably, self-centredness get in the way.

Catherine Greehalgh as Melissa and Griff Mellhuish, as Andy, trace their relationship as each sits at their writing desk throughout the play. Facial expression, silences, and body language were almost as important as the words and these two fine actors used them fully.

It was easy to imagine Fisher's ghost somewhere, nodding approval at the play and the building restoration.

Catherine Gill directed, and lighting was by John Kimber for Classic Theatre, which presented it in conjunction with BATS at no cost to them. All proceeds to the renovation project.

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