Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West are popular cultural icons for gay women's love stories. In this new play, Misha Pinnington, takes these iconic figures and places them side by side a modern day love story, complete with sexting, nudes and coffee dates. In interweaving the letters of Vita and Virginia and text conversations of Mia and Lottie to create the fabric of the play, Pinnington interrogates our relationship with the written form now and in the past.
Photo Credit: Ali Wright
In some ways the past seems frighteningly similar to today, from the power games Vita plays, leaving a letter for Virginia without ringing to see if she's in, the miscommunications of lunches with unknown others, and the erotic pleas (even if in the modern day you are hopefully not going to be begging your lover to "throw over your man" as Virginia tells Vita). These similarities are highlighted by the wonderful and witty performance of modern day flirtation which whilst not being quiet as eloquent as Vita's "you have turned me into a thing that wants" is still relatable and fun. The modern banter draws a lot of well earned laughter from the audience, with the horrors of sending a first nude and googling how to sext whilst on trying to keep your horny girlfriend at bay via text.
It would be very easy for a play that comprises purely of written letters and texts to feel like it dragged in places. However, the fantastic and charismatic performances of EM Williams and Heather Wilkins helped carry the production with an off the cuff charm and hilarious interpretations of the more risqué parts of the script. The actors flipped between playing Vita and Virginia and Lottie and Mia, a decision that both helped tie the two stories together and create interesting interconnections between the otherwise sometimes opposing characters.
Physical theatre, something else that can be difficult to pull off, was also handled excellently in 'V&V' with the relationships between the characters being shown through kneeling, hiding behind screens and practically swooning back into chairs. There is an erotic energy as well as desperate sadness between the two character, sharing a stage, laughter and intimacy who for most of the play are never allowed to touch, that speaks hauntingly to the experience of textual communication in any age.
'V&V' is the tender exploration of two relationships reminding us that whilst our digital age of instant communication is thrilling there is nothing like physical touch and conversation to hold us together and overcome fear of loneliness and isolation.
'V&V' was on at the VAULT festival until the 8th of March and more information can be found about it here.