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BWW Review: DEAR TOMORROW - HOPE FROM HOME, Actors Touring Company and Northern Stage Online

The theatre companies have collaborated to create six video-letters of hope for uncertain times.

BWW Review: DEAR TOMORROW - HOPE FROM HOME, Actors Touring Company and Northern Stage Online BWW Review: DEAR TOMORROW - HOPE FROM HOME, Actors Touring Company and Northern Stage Online Last week saw the release of Dear Tomorrow - Hope From Home, an exciting collaboration between Actors Touring Company and Northern Stage. The virtual project consisted of six video-letters of hope and optimism, released each day from 22 to 27 February, written by six writers and performed by six actors. They will remain online through the end of the year.

Conceived and developed by Matthew Xia and Natalie Ibu, Dear Tomorrow - Hope From Home followed on from ATC's Dear Tomorrow, a project that was inspired by James Baldwin's Letter to My Nephew and consists of three letters by three writers from around the globe sent to participants to perform for audiences last November.

With Boris' recent announcement of the road map out of lockdown (not to mention the appearance of the sunshine last week), Dear Tomorrow - Hope From Home came at the perfect time. The letters are all grounded in tragic subjects, to be sure - the pandemic and the inequalities it has laid bare, the climate crisis, racism and transgender trauma, but the missives brim with confidence that a better future is on the horizon.

Much of the digital theatre streamed throughout lockdown has been about escaping the turmoil of our time; this venture meets the pandemic head on, to harrowing but fundamentally optimistic results. Belinda Odenyo Onassis' music that frames each video-letter aptly channels the mood of the project - pensive yet charged with anticipation of something good to come.

BWW Review: DEAR TOMORROW - HOPE FROM HOME, Actors Touring Company and Northern Stage Online Though some of the video-letters feel under-rehearsed, with the actors sometimes stumbling over their words as they recite the text from the page, the writing is excellent throughout. The contribution by Satinder Chohan and performed by Melissa Johns (pictured right) stands out: a beautifully crafted and poetic piece spoken with ease and a skilful cadence. Chohan's writing is rhythmic and soulful and is delivered in therapeutic and reassuring tones. One of the most poignant lines from the letter reads, "Even as we masked, Covid unmasked us".

Chiméne Suleyman's letter, performed by Vera Chok, has a similarly poetic style. The piece constitutes a love letter to London: Suleyman's writing is sensory and vivid as she rhapsodizes on the vibrancy of the city and its diverse inhabitants. The letter is about love, friendship, family, food, and the joys of nights out, and Suleyman's evocative descriptions make you long for the day when we will be able to be together again: "I don't know if it will get better," she says, "but I think it must".

The letters are all completely different but each heart-warming and optimistic in its own way. Hannah Khalil's letter about the news announced in December that the weight of human made objects - i.e. everything we manufacture - now exceeds that of living things is all the more moving for its performance by 11-year-old Diaana Babnicova (pictured top). Watching the piece, one can't help but worry about what kind of planet she will inherit.

Inclusion and accessibility are at the core of the work at both ATC and Northern Stage. Each letter begins with that actor delivering an audio description of their appearance, clothing and background, and the creatives come from a range of backgrounds and identities. ATC produces plays that come from beyond our shores and are committed to "creating a dialogue between Britain and the rest of the world", just as Northern Stage believes in the "social, emotional and political power of theatre to challenge the status quo". While these are letters of hope, many of them are innately political, rooted in experiences of prejudice, hatred, and suffering.

We all long for the intimacy of live theatre, and these letters come close to realising that goal. They represent deeply personal expressions of the writers' own experiences, and as the actors tenderly deliver the monologues to camera, it feels like they are talking directly to you. In his Letter to My Nephew, James Baldwin tells his brother's son, "this is your home, my friend. Do not be driven from it." Dear Tomorrow - Hope From Home reminds us that home is found in love, kindness, human connection and care, and that though we have been driven apart by the pandemic, we will be together again soon.

Dear Tomorrow - Hope from Home available to view online until 31 December


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