Meet Virginia Woolf & Vita Sackville-West, and Mia & Lottie. Two couples who underpin their relationships with written communication; taking place around a century apart, Woolf and Sackville-West are reliant on letters, whereas Mia and Lottie make do with various forms of instant messaging following their pairing on a dating app. These two love stories, and the intricacies of communication within relationships, are examined in Sprezzatura Productions’ V&V, written and directed by Misha Pinnington.
In our technological age, hand-written letters have a certain nostalgic pull and a suggestion of romance about them – Virginia and Vita prove that this indeed can be the case, but (as one might expect with lengthy and frequent correspondence) there’s also room for the mundane as well as the suggestion of paranoia and jealousy. As for modern forms of communication, there are far more complexities than might initially cross your mind; Lottie agonises over how many kisses to add (and where in the message chain), Mia tries her best to appear cool – and both fire off quick replies which they both end up regretting.
This play of two wildly different generations is presented very cleanly and clearly; who’s who is established early on in both strands, and the scenes blend seamlessly into one another – a simple sound and change in lighting is all that’s needed to denote a step forward or back in time. The two romances run fairly parallel to one another, from early flirtations and the establishment of their relationships, to difficult patches and separations. Though the two strands are tonally distinct from one another (Mia and Lottie’s story has far more potential for belly laughs than the elegant letters exchanged by Virginia and Vita), but by moving them on at a similar pace to each other it is possible to see similarities in media that initially seem rather disparate.
Heather Wilkins and EM Williams have a great rapport as Lottie/Virginia and Mia/Vita. The dynamics of both relationships are largely the same, with each pair of characters possessing similar traits, though the actors do well to manifest them in slightly different ways – each befitting the tone of the scene and the style of the writing. Williams’ Mia & Vita are self-assured and begin very much in control, whereas Wilkins’ Lottie & Virginia have their own brand of insecurities that are worked on as each story develops.
The simple set allows the words to really do the talking, though the inclusion of a DM screen projection for the modern strand of the story is an ingenious move – it adds to the comedy when silly mistakes are made, but also makes the harsher messages more hurtful as you can re-read them over & again just as you would do in real life. Ultimately, however, this is a moving pair of stories that demonstrate the enduring power of the written word, and its complex effect on relationships.
My verdict? A touching and funny play that highlights the power and importance of communication – the production is focused and beautifully presented.
V&V ran at the VAULT Festival until 8 March 2020.