March 14, 2019  admin No comments Alerts, Letters Live, News

On the back of another sold out London run, Letters Live is bringing its star-studded show to the Royal Albert Hall on 3 October 2019, in what will be its most ambitious night to date. The date will also see the launch of a new series of themed Letters of Note books, compiled by co-producer Shaun Usher.

A celebration of the enduring power of the letter, Letters Live is an unforgettable live experience that pairs great performers with remarkable literary correspondence, and from the most unexpected and varied of sources.

Hailed in The Observer as “the best letters in the world read by the best voices”, Letters Live had its premiere at The Tabernacle in west London in December 2013. Since then it has been staged over sixty times, including performances in New York, Brixton Prison, Los Angeles, and the Calais Jungle.

As is always the case with Letters Live, the line-up for the Royal Albert Hall show will remain under wraps until the night. Past performers have included Oscar-winner Olivia Colman and co-producer Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as Gillian Anderson, Sir Ian McKellen, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Thom Yorke, Jude Law, Stephen Fry, Brie Larson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nick Cave, Stephen Fry and Sir Ben Kingsley, plus live music from Reggie Watts to Benjamin Booker.

Letters read at previous shows have included ones written by David Bowie, Marge Simpson, Mohandas Gandhi, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Kurt Vonnegut, Charlotte Bronte, John Steinbeck, and Che Guevara as well as by many remarkable, lesser-known people.

Letters Live was inspired by Shaun Usher’s bestselling Letters of Note and Simon Garfield’s To the Letter. A worldwide phenomenon, Usher’s Letters of Note titles have been translated into eighteen languages and sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, with the Letters of Note website visited by tens of millions of people. Continue reading  »

March 14, 2019  admin No comments Letters Live, News

It’s a blustery Saturday night and around 900 people are lined up to go to church. The faithful have come to the Union Chapel, in Islington, London, to receive wisdom from those stepping up to the pulpit – a lineup that tonight includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Noel Fielding, Juliet Stevenson and Thom Yorke. Letters Live, a celebration of literary correspondence, has always looked a little odd on paper since it began in 2013. After all, who wants to spend a night out having letters read to them by a bunch of actors and musicians, whose identities are not revealed in advance?

“When you first hear the idea it doesn’t quite sing, but do it once and you are smitten,” says Cumberbatch, who was so smitten he became a producer and now helps shape the shows. “Everyone we ask says they’d do it again in a heartbeat. And we just hope it is the same for the audience.”

Jamie Byng adds gleefully: “When I told Toby Jones about the concept, he said, ‘What’s so fucking exciting about reading letters?’ Now he loves it! He’s proselytising!” It helps that Byng, as the head of Canongate, can just call up Toby Jones – or, as he did for the first ever event, Nick Cave. Now the show that was once a book – Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note, which in turn grew from his hugely popular website – recently sold out three gigs in less than an hour, a feat totalling 2,500 tickets. And today, it has announced its biggest ever venue: the Royal Albert Hall.

Part of the allure of Letters Live is the nightly celebrity bingo: Gillian Anderson reading Katharine Hepburn, Ian McKellen reciting Roald Dahl, Jude Law at a show in the Calais refugee camp. New York events have seen James Earl Jones, Brie Larson and Chevy Chase on stage. There are great moments of verisimilitude – Cave reading his own letter to MTV, or Ben Kingsley reading the letter Gandhi wrote to Hitler, 32 years after portraying the Indian activist. Last Friday, days after her Oscar win, Olivia Colman materialised to a standing ovation, to read a letter by Queen Victoria to her eldest daughter. “Pressure’s on,” she opened, drily.

“You can’t help be drawn in, even when the letter is never written for you,” says Byng. “Every human experience can be found in letters. They can make you feel something you can’t feel yourself, experiences you will never live. Some of us will never lose a child. Some of us will never kill someone. You could sit at home to read them, but, through the alchemy of performance, everyone in that audience becomes the recipient.” Continue reading  »