The story of Laurence Olivier and Vivienne Leigh is one of Hollywood history, despite both of them being English and Olivier being the darling of British theatre. Wrapped up in glamour and decorated with publicists, red satin and Academy Awards, theirs was a romance idolised by millions even though Leigh’s struggle with mental illness eventually destroyed the couple. As a story it’s a case of true life being stranger than fiction, so it’s a shame that Letter to Larry pushes it into melodrama.
Written by Donald Macdonald, Letter to Larry is a disappointing watch. A combination of script issues, confusing direction and an inconsistent performance from Susie Lindeman meant I was left disinterested and unengaged. Frustratingly, it is obvious that Macdonald has clearly done his research into the life of Vivienne Leigh and the effects of mental illness. The moments where he explores the effects of depression and psychosis are very well written and sympathetic, but unfortunately Cal McCrystal’s direction ruins any subtlety and has his actress dramatically throwing herself around the stage like Kate Bush.
As Vivienne Leigh, Susie Lindeman is inconsistent. Once again, she has clearly done her research and at times her performance is delicately fragile. However, her vocals are all over the shop and actually make the story hard to follow as she switches her voice so frequently it’s hard to understand who she’s impersonating. When Lindeman is performing as ‘well’ Vivienne she is engaging, but I just didn’t believe the descent into madness and at times found it a little cringey.
The bare bones of a good show are here. Macdonald’s script could do with some editing but on the whole it is enlightening and nicely woven together, but it’s not enough to hold the show together. Some poor direction and a mixed performance mean that this show sits on the wrong side of average which is disappointing given the theatrical nature of the subject.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
Letter To Larry is playing at Jermyn Street Theatre until 22 August 2015. Click here to book tickets