On the back of another sold out London run, Letters Live is bringing its star-studded show to the Royal Albert Hall on 3rd October 2019, in what will be its most ambitious night to date. The 3rd October will also see the launch of a new series of themed Letters of Note books, compiled by Shaun Usher, one of the co-producers of Letters Live.
A celebration of the enduring power of the letter, Letters Live is an unforgettable live experience that pairs great performers with remarkable literary correspondence, and from the most unexpected and varied of sources.
Hailed in The Observer as “the best letters in the world read by the best voices”, Letters Live had its premiere at The Tabernacle in west London in December 2013. Since then it has been staged over sixty times, including performances in New York, Venice, Brixton Prison, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, the Hay Festival, the Wilderness Festival and in the Calais Jungle. The most recent run took place over three nights at Islington’s Union Chapel, to a combined audience of nearly 3000 people.
As is always the case with Letters Live, the line-up for the Royal Albert Hall show will remain under wraps until the night. Past performers have included Benedict Cumberbatch, Olivia Colman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gillian Anderson, Sir Ian McKellen, Sally Hawkins, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jude Law, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddelston, Helen McCrory, Stephen Fry, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Riz Ahmed, Juliet Stevenson, Jarvis Cocker, Noma Dumezweni, Noel Fielding, Kylie Minogue, Thom Yorke, Louise Brealey, Toby Jones and Sir Ben Kingsley, plus live music from artists ranging from Nick Cave, Laura Mvula and Jamie Cullum to Benjamin Clementine, Tom Odell and James Rhodes.
Letters read at previous shows have included ones written by David Bowie, Marge Simpson, Mohandas Gandhi, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Kurt Vonnegut, Charlotte Bronte, James Baldwin, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, John Steinbeck, Madonna, Tom Hanks, Dorothy Parker and Che Guevara as well as by many remarkable people who are lesser known.
Letters Live was inspired by Shaun Usher’s bestselling Letters of Note and Simon Garfield’s To the Letter. A worldwide phenomenon, Usher’s Letters of Note titles have been translated into eighteen languages and sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, and the Letters of Note website has been visited by tens of millions of people.
On October 3rd, a new series of small-format Letters of Note paperbacks will be launched, each featuring letters on a specific theme. Also curated by Shaun Usher and published by Canongate, the first four books to appear will be on Music, War, Love, and Cats. They will be simultaneously published in a dozen countries around the world.
Lucy Noble, Artistic Director at the Royal Albert Hall, said: “Letters Live is a totally unique evening of depth, joy, pain, humour and music. It manages to draw on so much performance talent, and on such a range of literary correspondence – across centuries and across time – to create a show unlike any other. We can’t wait to see it, and to laugh and cry at these small glimpses into history’s real lives – and ultimately into our own.”
Benedict Cumberbatch, co-producer of Letters Live, said “Letters Live makes us pause and imagine the lives behind the letters read and the circumstances of their origin. It’s a privilege and truly inspiring to read this unique form of the written word to a live audience. And we are enormously excited to be bringing Letters Live to the Royal Albert Hall, one of the world’s most iconic performance spaces.”
Shaun Usher, editor of Letters of Note and co-producer of Letters Live, said "That the humble letter is soon to be celebrated in a venue as magnificent and beloved as the Royal Albert Hall is a testament to the enduring power of this most precious form of communication. To say that we at Letters Live are excited and proud to be gracing such a stage, and raising money for a charity as important as the National Literacy Trust, would be a huge understatement. For it to coincide with the launch of the new Letters of Note series of books, of which I am immensely proud, is the icing on the cake.”
Jamie Byng, CEO of Canongate and co-producer of Letters Live, said “If I had been told when we staged the first, hastily cobbled together show at the Tabernacle in 2013 that one day we would be taking Letters Live to the Royal Albert Hall, I would have thought I was dreaming. But the ways it has evolved and grown over the last six years, makes me feel that the time is now right. And I know that this show on the 3rd October is going to be one of the most memorable and jaw-dropping we have ever put on as well as a spectacular way to launch Shaun’s brilliant new series of Letters of Note books.”
Letters Live has from the outset been committed to supporting worthwhile causes and charities including First Story, The Reading Agency, Mothers to Mothers, Help Refugees, 826LA, 826NY, Ministry of Stories, Women for Women and Youth Strike for Climate Change. For the Royal Albert Hall performance the charity being supported is the National Literacy Trust, one of the UK’s most important and respected literacy charities.
Tickets for Letters Live at the Royal Albert Hall are on sale from 9am on Friday the 15th March, priced £29 to £86.
Letters of Note: Music, Letters of Note: War, Letters of Note: Love, and Letters of Note: Cats, curated by Shaun Usher, will be published by Canongate on October 3rd, each priced £6.99