Rachel Mars: Reminders of Archaic Letter Writing

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I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was not expecting that – perhaps a night of flash poetry, loosely based on the theme of sexting with a sophisticated wine reception, the kind that makes you contemplate life and make you feel oh so intellectual.

I still don’t know how to articulate what I saw or heard or felt into words, but I will attempt to, nonetheless.

Rachel Mars led the audience on a hilarious and frankly explicit exploration of ‘sexting’ as it was communicated in the 19th and 20th Century through lustful notes and letters between lovers. Lovers like James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, Georgia O’ Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz and Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.

Frankly letters of such poetic and violent emotion that it puts modern-day sexting to shame. A fact Mars also illustrated that in the presentation of a series of messages sent in anonymously from the public from text chats, tweets and dating apps, blatantly covering the topic of sexting. One of which simply being – “Can you boil the kettle, please?”

How British.

I am an individual who loves learning – I read books, I watch TED Talks, talk to strangers (in a completely non-weird way) so what did I learn from this particular experience?

Firstly, that listening to an explicit monologue of James Joyce’s relationship with Nora Barnacle is excruciating and even listening to something so detailed leaves you to question where to look.

Secondly, I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was not expecting that – Rachel Mars is by far one of the best and most interesting shows I have ever seen at the theatre.

There was something magical about taking something so crude as sexting and turn it into a social study and comical study of the base desires of humans throughout the ages, particularly in comparison to the archaic medium of letter writing.

Particularly at the end, when a series of texts implores the recipient to engage in relations in a series of positions and circumstances – it almost gave you something to aspire to. Almost.

I loved the show for its dissent from the typical British taboo of avoiding the topic of sex, especially in such excruciating detail and being proud to explore such a niche topic.

Rachel Mars’ performance and dedication to this subject is also to be admired – she brings not only these letters, but the love stories behind them alive.

Their delivery marks the difference between these old letters and the modern ‘sexts’; whereas the messages were presented through a modern projector controlled by a remote, the letters were presented through speech, clearly tea-stained and made with an introduction by a carousel slide projector.

The show reminds us of the archaic nature of letter writing and the beauty of that, no matter what the subject matter. Additionally, the universality of love and the circumstances it can be expressed. Finally, how funny we, as humans can be when it comes to expressing how we feel to those most dear to us.

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