'It's important to build bridges between cultures so we can understand each other better'
PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 January 2017
Lilac Yosiphon's play, One Last Thing (For Now), is calling for love letters in times of war before opening at the Old Red Lion theatre
A playwright is appealing for letters and emails from north London residents to help write her play about love and war.
One Last Thing (For Now) runs at Islington’s Old Red Lion theatre in March and features a 10-strong international cast performing interwoven stories from different conflicts.
Lilac Yosiphon wants residents to contribute letters, texts, skype messages or tweets from any conflict, time or place.
The former Mountview student who is artistic director of Althea Theatre company, explains they won’t be used verbatim but as inspiration to explore the universal language of love and war in different cultures.
“It doesn’t have to be written to you or be expressing only romantic love, it could be between siblings or a parent to child. It’s more about affection and a connection. We have one from a student to a former teacher after he became a soldier. The teacher became such a mentor that he addressed his last letter to her.”
Contributed letters will be used as the basis for a scene in Althea’s show which spans WWI, occupied France, the Colombian civil war, the Vietnam War, and tales of Israel and contemporary Britain.
Separate conflicts aren’t picked out but stitched together into “a tapestry of timelines” to bring out the shared experience that bridges language and cultural barriers.
“The narratives fold and unfold into each other to see what we share. If you make it all inter-connected, it’s harder to judge when the conflict was and that’s the point,” says Yosiphon, who has been creating the piece for two years: “I read one of those beautiful postcards from WWI from 1914 and a message from 2014. People wrote exactly the same things only in a different language, time and place. When things are about to happen, you have to leave someone behind, you express the same words.”
Themes include conscientious objection and physical and emotional injury, for both soldiers and those on the home front.
“From the Falkland War onwards there’s a need to express things as they are, not as it is presented on the news, so their loved know what’s going on.”
“We have read so many letters, some from people kind enough to share their experiences. We have actors who speak a range of languages, from all over the UK, Colombia, France, Greece. The callout for love letters is so important. The show has a home in Islington and we want to find a connection to the local community to have a more diverse representation of London today.”
One communication is via video messages between London and Afghanistan, while another is from a woman who does not receive a letter and yet another of repressed British passion.
“There’s the difference between being able to see and hear the person and the cryptic postcards where you weren’t able to say what you were feeling. The time it took to know or not know what was going on with the person you love, whereas now my mum in Israel often knows what’s happening here before I do.”
Yosiphon’s definition of war includes “active conflict in more controversial places”.
“As an Israeli Jewish woman I was interested in a timeline to do with Israel and colonialisation.
“It’s important to build bridges between cultures so we can understand each other better. We want to find the stories behind these letters and use storytelling and movement as the beginning of a conversation.”
One Last Thing (For Now) runs at the Old Red Lion March 7-25. Submit love letters related to Islington via email@example.com
One Last Thing (For Now) Picture: Laurie Field