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Letters and Longings

by on 9 March 2022

Poignancy Propelled

Letters and Longings

by Emma Louise Tinniswood

Step on Stage Performing Arts at Hampton Hill Theatre, until 5th March

Review by Heather Moulson

We sat down to a curtain-less set, with a pensive blue backdrop, that was simple yet effective.  The dramatic lighting by Ken Lau, and the sleek direction by Emma Louise Tinniswood brought this dark, vibrant piece alive, with predominately white costumes whose simplicity matched the mood of this grim era.  Each scene was striking in its own way with tableaux from talented young actors from Step on Stage Performing Arts. 

The leading actor, Charlotte Williams, played Henrietta Vansittart, one of our forgotten female inventors.  Set in the inventor’s last days in an asylum in 1883, Charlotte’s performance was clear and concise with confident stage presence.  The atmosphere crackled with poignancy as Henrietta’s story is told, amongst those of other women inmates’ own humiliation.    Henrietta, one of the first female engineers and inventor of the Lowe-Vansittart screw propeller, tells her story of the uphill climb and frustration she went through to be heard.  Henrietta was also the first woman to present technical drawings before a scientific institution. 

Henrietta’s younger self was played impressively by Tilly Cooke, and the two performers were consistent with each other.  There were well-written scenes that detailed Henrietta’s devotion to her frustrated inventor father, her unhappy marriage, and her passionate affair with novelist and politician, Edward Bulwer-Lytton.   This life story was presented with razor sharp vignettes and good strong pacing.  The white coated Nils Collins as Doctor George particularly stood out with the cold demeanour of that period. 

All in all, it was fifty-five minutes of joy.   Step on Stage’s hard work had certainly paid off and used their big cast to their full potential.    However, although it was lit beautifully, some faces were in darkness and some of the supporting cast didn’t always project.   Vital information passed us by.  Neither of these points made it any the less enjoyable, and the impressive Emma Louise Tinniswood’s detailed direction and the overall stark and chilling design kept us absorbed.

I noted Letters and Longings had great success at the Woking Festival last year, with Charlotte Williams earning a nomination for Best Young Actress, and Emma Louise Tinniswood nominated for Best New Play and Best Costume.  Not to mention the whole cast winning the Adjudicator’s Award.  This was a high achievement indeed, and very well deserved.    We came out of the theatre enlightened, and cheering for them all. 

Heather Moulson, March 2022

Photography courtesy of Step on Stage

One Comment
  1. This looks great. Thank you

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