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A visit to the theatre: “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter”

On 27th March, as a final Abitur preparation and despite the public transportation strike, we managed to go and see an adaption of “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” in the “Altes Schauspielhaus” in Stuttgart. In the following, you may read two reviews of the play giving you an idea of what the visit was like for the students:

As a student in the English performance course of KS2, I have to say that our visit to the “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” theater production on March 27th, 2023, was truly exceptional. The actors were simply amazing, and we were completely captivated by their performances. It was a great opportunity for us to refresh our knowledge about the story and enhance our understanding of the plot.

What made the timing of our visit even more exceptional was the fact that we are preparing for our final English exam, the Abitur, which is coming up in just a few weeks. Seeing the play was incredibly helpful in our exam preparation, and it has definitely given us a boost of confidence going into the exam.

We are incredibly grateful to the city and school administrators for making this visit possible. It’s not every day that we get to attend such a high-quality production, and we feel fortunate to have had this opportunity. Our teacher, Mrs. Holmes, did an excellent job of organizing the visit, and we are thankful for all of her efforts.

Overall, the “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” theater production was a fantastic experience, and we highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to attend. It was a valuable learning experience for all of us, and we feel better prepared for our upcoming exam. Thank you to everyone involved in making this visit possible!

Joel N.

The musical theatre-esque dance routine in the middle of the play, which felt like it was choreographed by sixth graders in PE, says everything you need to know about crooked letterx2 the theatre adaptation: Awkward and bizarre.                                                                                        

Originally by Tom Franklyn, this play did the book no favours and by no means elevated the source material, which is something an adaptation should always strive for. In the following review, I will elaborate on my reasoning.

Crooked letter x2, the play and the book alike are about Tina Rutherford, a 19-year-old student. The general consensus around the case is that Larry Ott, a white farmer and mechanic, kidnapped and murdered her, just as he did Cindy Walker all those years ago. Silas Jones, a black police officer, investigates her case and while on duty finds out that Larry had been shot. All this plays out against the backdrop of rural Mississippi, a state known for its discriminatory nature.

The possibly only redeeming quality of this production were the performances by the actors, who admittedly had little to work with. Although they lacked in numbers, the thespians did a decent job in representing the characters. The change in the order of events was also a smart decision on the director’s part. The chronological order made the plot more comprehensible for an audience solely comprised of forgetful students. On a more technical note, the lighting was fine, the props were good and the stage was pretty barren, except for the entrance to Larry´s house, but that´s expected from a low-budget production. Other than that there´s little to praise.

The portrayal of the characters from a writing standpoint is anything but accurate to the book. Which, although not always a bad thing, as it can help to establish an adaptation’s own identity, would´ve probably done the play some good in this case. For one, Larry is characterized as a nerdy shy wallflower type, whereas in Franklin’s version he is the resident creepy quiet kid. This characterization is crucial to the story, as a major plot point relies on it. This version of Larry Ott would´ve never killed Cindy Walker, or rather, no-one would´ve believed he had. He´s too harmless, too eager. Although the chain of events make it seem like he had, it´s evident by his nature that he´s not capable of being a rapist/murderer. This realization renders the rest of the story unrealistic. Book Larry was quiet, kept to himself, and obsessed with Steven King novels. Nobody knew him properly, which means nobody knew what he was capable of. Larry is scary in the book. Play Larry is not scary Larry. Additionally, a lot of the depth is gone from the relationships of the different characters, which can happen when you reduce the content of a whole novel into a compact 2 hours. Larry´s yearning for connection with his dad, Carl, is practically non-existent, and Carls dismissive and at times abusive nature suffers a similar fate. Which is a shame, as their dynamic offers good insight into Larry as a whole. Moreover, an additional scene between Silas and his mother would’ve been much appreciated. Instead of Silas telling Cindy, his mum wouldn´t allow him to see her, because she´s white, why not show the audience in what could’ve been an incredibly powerful scene between Silas and Alice, why she says this and outline why she thinks the way she does. SHOW DON´T TELL! It could´ve been a great opportunity to show a nuanced take on discrimination and its effects, which is a main theme in the book, but oh well.                                                                                                                                           

Last but not least, I believe the ending could´ve benefited from an epilogue like scene, instead of ending so abruptly.

To summarize, Crooked letterx2 is a mediocre adaptation at best, and a bad play at worst.

Farrah B.