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Book Festival: Review

Letters Home

Letters Home

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The intimate art of letter writing may have given way to the impersonal pings of social media over the last decade or so, but this quartet of short works presented by site-specific maestros Grid Iron in a unique collaboration with Edinburgh International Book Festival goes some way to claiming it back.

With the audience promenaded between a network of addresses in and around Charlotte Square, stories with themes of exile and the umbilical link with home are taken off the page and brought to life in this gentlest of fusions between forms.

In Details, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie charts a long-distance email love affair between a Nigerian woman and her American friend. Christos Tsiolkas's Eve and Cain brings the Bible's original dysfunctional family together in a mother-and-child reunion to end them all.

In the first, Joe Douglas directs Muna Otaru and Rhoda Ofori-Attah through the women's painful absence on a double bed on which they email each other. For the second, Ben Harrison has a fierce Charlene Boyd as Eve squaring up to Gavin Marshall's Cain on a sand-covered expanse in a piece that leans towards Greek tragedy in its classical formality.

Beyond theatre, film-maker Alice Nelson renders Kamila Shamsie's War Letters as an exquisite four-screen installation that moves between nations charting the Indian experience of the First World War. Michael John McCarthy has the audience buckle up for a flight from Jamaica for a sonic rendering of Kei Miller's England In A Pink Blouse. Here we see a young man's flight from home liberating him in a way that allows him to be exactly who is beyond his roots.

Accompanied by low-key scores by Philip Pinsky, and, in War Letters, Zoe Irvine, all four pieces are rendered exquisitely. It is Zinnie Harris's final postscript to the show, however, which moves the most, as the audience is allowed to eavesdrop in on the cast's post-show state of mind. There's something touching about seeing and hearing such personal bon mots spoken out loud in a show that shows off Grid Iron at their finest.

Runs to August 25

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Arts and Entertainment

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