Letters I Haven’t Written
Gwyneth Herbert at The Opus Theatre Hastings
Director Susannah Tresilian
Designer Tom Rogers
Bass Sam Burgess
Guitar Rob Luft
Piano Tom Gibbs
Drums and percussion Corrie Dick
Video artist Will Duke
Reviewed by Sarah Lloyd
Gwyneth Herbert’s flawless performance of her #LettersNot Written show at the gorgeous Opus Theatre was breath-taking and magnificent. Full of talent, warmth, generosity and courage, she has a transformative integrity that bursts unstoppably through everything she does.
Emerging in crisp white shirt, braces and the most astonishing trousers, she put me in mind of Bowie in his ‘Thin White Duke’ phase, iconic and instantly mesmerising. Completely unfazed by the ringtone that cuts across her opening, she smiles stylishly, asks: “Can you tune that to a G minor?” and soars on.
Working with a supertalented new four piece brings an edgier more interactive energy around her that she is clearly thriving in. You can sense they’ve got her back and she seems all the more relaxed and expansive because of it. Staged within a moving collage, like a huge quirky computer desktop, she makes very creative use of it, including a fantastic duet with the amazing Krystle Warren.
#Letters project began as a way of working through her own personal emotions after a close friend’s suicide. But the rich healing seam of cathartic creativity she unearthed inspired her to want to share the process with others. So the last months have seen her characteristically hard at work in schools and refuge centres, everywhere coaxing transformative letters from people, which they collectively turn into songs.
Gwyneth Herbert loves people, it’s tangible, and people love her back, because she’s the real thing and you can sense it. Her phenomenal power is the way she threads the invisible, the excluded and the alienated together, then transforms them with her trademark creativity and warmth to become bearable and shareable.
Shared emotion in shared space is what makes us real for each other, and Herbert is a true alchemist in this. She has a thoroughly relational, creative character, which prioritises honesty, respect and responsiveness. Then she holds everything playfully, patiently, fearlessly, until a fresh sonic metamorphosis unfurls.
Her voice has effortless sensitivity and power, speaking directly to the secret places where we humans hide emotions away. Never have I attended a performance where so many people were shedding quiet tears of recognition.
I urge you to catch this incredible woman as soon as you can.
Follow her on facebook if nothing else, as she is also an incredibly generous community builder there, and you can see some moving moments from her recent tour. Come home soon Gwyneth, Hastings loves you!
• Letters I Haven’t Written by Gwyneth Herbert. Available on iTunes here
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