einstein letter

Review: The Einstein Letter at The Other Palace

Review: The Einstein Letter at The Other Palace

The Einstein Letter is “an intimate, realistic theatre feat. No, really – it is that good.”


The brand new play by an acclaimed playwright Nicky Silver (of The Lyons fame) is an intimate, realistic theatre feat. No, really – it is that good. 

What is to engage is the battle between lies and truth, between reality and delusion. The play’s subject is the relationship between Lydia and Cal, a young man delivering her inedible (she says) lunches as a part of his community sentence. The connection between these two is paced with an interesting beat: he simultaneously detests and craves these meetings; she claims to be disinterested but appears to grasp onto them like a last breath of life disappearing from her lungs. 

Even in the unfriendly setting-no-setting of rehearsed reading, Sara Kestelman’s (Lydia) talents shine bright; she is able to convene any and all nuances, from utter despair to disillusion, and from sharp wit to muttering of an unsound mind.   

No one can distinguish where her lies end and truth begins – including perhaps, herself. She sees herself as an artist and the world through a magnifying glass. Convinced that people surrounding her are, as a rule, non-interesting, she appears to be losing a sense of reality for the sake of the dramas in her mind. And thus, she slowly descends into a total delusion. Lydia is simultaneously hateable and pitiable – her egocentrism justifies the former, whilst her regrets speak for the latter. Kestelman plays her so well she never really leans towards one side more than the other and allows the audience to form an opinion on her character. 

Victoria Yeates as the young Lydia is like a tiger on stage – she begins perilously as an overconfident young, presumably newly married woman with no agenda over her very own life whom we then see as a miserable wife and bad mother, a lost soul, a hag jealous even of her own daughter. She is incapable of dealing with her emotions in a non-destructive way and ends up destroying everyone around her and, in the end, herself. Her husband (Ed Cohen), as seen through her own eyes, is an egotistical jerk guilty of his only son’s demise – but is he really? Or is it to a figment of her imagination, designed to cleanse her of her guilt?  Cal (Lee Knight) has an interesting storyline in its own right, battling the feelings of guilt, fear of the future and relations with his less-than-sympathetic almost-mother-in-law.  

The pacing is overall excellent, although there are some minuscule tweaks that could be made to improve the continuity. Lydia’s son Miller’s (very convincing Luke Baker who also gave a charming pre-show concert) appearances feel a bit Deus-ex-machina unexpected – it might’ve been better if his part of the story was told by someone else, by reading a letter or page in a diary, perhaps.  

I can’t but marvel at the quality of the prose – Lydia’s initial monologue, for example, sparks with beautiful parallels and unexpected conclusions, whilst remaining intriguing and functional.  

Einstein’s Letter eats into the memory like acid into metal. It is not a play of a have-a-bash kind but a true thing, a sincere thing, and an engaging thing – a product of perspicacity and careful design.  

The Einstein Letter was produced by The Salon, a production company that aims to weave The next show by The Salon, Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts will be at the Other Palace on March 31st.