Dead Letter Office

deadletter1Like drones they scurry around the space, carrying out their tasks, bearing their packages, their boxes marked with various destinations, Leamington Spa, Cardiff, Fort William, the distant postal districts of the land, but rather than arriving at those locales here are the communications which went astray and were eventually routed instead to the dead letter office.

Unannounced, James arrives at the office, seeking a letter intended for him but which he says never arrived. The first instinct of the harassed Niamh is to refuse him as he has no permission slip, but realising that he is now stranded, the ferry dock having closed an hour before, she agrees to assist without realising what she has left himself in for.

deadletter3While the letter was meant for James, it may not be in his name, as it was changed when he was adopted, and as he doesn’t know the identity of his birth mother, nor can he say where it was sent from, only that it would have been about twenty four years ago, a deeper search than Niamh had anticipated. Her supervisor, the belligerent Albie, has a more direct response and just wants him to get to leave, preferably without interfering with any of the lost mail for which they are responsible, because this is not any ordinary dead letter office…

Written by Catherine Expósito and Marli Su, the premise has promise but is underdeveloped and the execution is lacking, and it is notable that they are among the performers who acquit themselves best in their performances, Su as the boisterous but deflective Niamh, Expósito as Emily, a voice from a dead letter, one of the misplaced memories contained within the aging envelopes, her huge energy sweeping through emotions like a snowplow.

deadletter2Similarly, Kirsty Findlay’s Joanna is sensitive but elusive, a stark contrast to Blair Kincaid’s James who stomps around in confusion and Matt Swift’s Albie whose purpose is confined to sneering, and with tiresome pointless persistent profanity rather than progression the play becomes histrionic, a rambunctious but unsophisticated production which lacks shade and depth.

Each letter a snapshot of a moment from the past, full of the anger and honesty of that long ago moment, the transitions are heavy handed, the loudspeakers overpowering in the small venue. In Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show the dark secrets of a nation were uncovered in the scraps of paper passing through the Nebraska dead letter office and threaded to form a sinister whole, but without that scope this feels like a fourth season episode of The Twilight Zone, the lesson here being that thirty minutes is quite enough.

Dead Letter Office continues until Friday 28th August




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