Welcome to The Letters Project Homepage
The Letters Project is an ongoing collaboration between co-directors Nina Bowers, Yasmin Hafesji, Ellen McDougall, Hannah Ringham and Moi Tran.
We started working together in March 2020.
Since then, we’ve made a few different iterations of the project, with 20 additional freelance artists, and partners including Age UK Kensington and Chelsea and SISMO International Festival.
This page is a record of the process, from when we started, to where we are now, and some thoughts for the future.
We hope you enjoy reading it.
This summer, we are presenting a recording of letters written between two strangers – Elizabeth Chan and Irfan Shamji – in Summer 2020 and Summer 2021.
It can meet you wherever you are.
A LETTER FROM THE CO-DIRECTING TEAM, SUMMER 2021:
Last year we were inside a lot. We started this project of letter writing to try something new. To connect people who hadn’t met before. To do something to be together when we couldn’t be in the theatre.
The lockdown and restrictions of 2020 forced us into new ways of working and collaborating. We had to be in a space of uncertainty. And we really didn’t know what we were doing.
Having grown with this project for over a year, we now know that The Letters Project is about looking at the relationship between a letter and live theatre, creating spaces to connect more intimately, meeting people you don’t know, connecting to the now in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, finding new ways of sharing and collaborating, sending thoughts, ideas and poems into the future.
It’s about not rushing, offering something small, quiet, and slow. It’s about being still, making attempts, and for us, about embracing longer timelines for making stuff.
This year, in 2021, we have moved from being inside to outside. We still can’t physically be in the Gate Theatre, but we wanted to find ways to bring the intimacy of what we discovered with the letters project last year out into the world in this time of flux.
We wanted this new version of the project to be an opportunity to connect on your terms. An invitation to take some time to pause, and listen, from wherever you are.
The letters Elizbeth Chan and Irfan Shamji have written to each other are gifts. By sharing their insights, reflections, experiences and poems in our local community and online, we’re opening a window to reflect on the year we’ve been through, and the time we’re living in now.
– Nina Bowers
The Letters Project began in March 2020, from an idea by Nina Bowers that built on the work we had done together, with others, when we made Dear Elizabeth in 2019.
The first iteration was a live zoom show, which we made with 18 additional guest performers, and the Gate Team including Ed Borgnis (technical support), Hannah Dunne (this website!) and Jenny Pearce (producer).
Nina Bowers is an Actor and Theatre Maker. Her theatre credits include THE HISTORIES (Shakespeare’s Globe) THE WOLVES (Theatre Royal Stratford East) directed by,Ellen McDougall; THE MAGIC FLUTE (Aix-en-Provence Festival) for Complicité,directed by Simon McBurney; CRAVE (The Pit, Barbican) directed by Julie Cunningham; TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES 1992 (The Gate Theatre) directed by Ola Ince and TOMORROW I’LL BE TWENTY (regional tour) for Complicité,directed by Catherine Alexander. Nina also collaborated with Ellen and Hannah on the making of DEAR ELIZABETH at The Gate. She is a member of DIRTY RASCALS THEATRE COLLECTIVE and has written and performed two original shows: NINA TALKS ABOUT HER VALUES and AN EVENING WITH THE MANTIS FROM ATLANTIS both at Camden People’s Theatre.
Yasmin Hafesji is a Director and Dramaturg. She was a member of the Young Vic Introduction to Directing Programme 2017, led by Natalie Abrahami.
As Director, theatre includes: Rhino(s) (Lyric Evolution Festival, Lyric Hammersmith); Rashida (Fresh Direction: Replay project, as part of the Young Vic Directors Program, Young Vic, Maria); Two Heads and a Hand & The Jokers (Shubbak Festival Staged Reading, Gate Theatre); A Little Iraqi (The Upsetters Takeover Festival, Bunker Theatre); Watch Me Dance! (White City Youth Theatre Summer Project, Bush Theatre); Young Writers Group Showcase (Bush Theatre, Studio).
As Dramaturg, theatre includes: Omeros (Staged Reading, Gate Theatre)
As Assistant Director, theatre includes: Women Beware Women (Globe Theatre); Fairview (Young Vic Theatre); Dear Elizabeth (Gate Theatre); The Mob Reformers (Lyric Hammersmith).
Ellen McDougall is Artistic Director at the Gate Theatre. Previous credits at the Gate include – Faces in The Crowd (2020), Dear Elizabeth (2019), Effigies of Wickedness (2018), The Unknown Island (2017) and Idomeneus (2014). Other credits include Our Town (Regents Open Air) and The Wolves (Stratford East); Othello (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe); the Lyric’s annual pantomime – Aladdin (2016) and Cinderella (2015); The Rolling Stone (Orange Tree Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange); The Remains of Maisie Duggan (Abbey Theatre, Dublin); The Glass Menagerie (Headlong); Anna Karenina (Manchester Royal Exchange); Henry the Fifth (Unicorn Theatre); Glitterland (Secret Theatre/Lyric Hammersmith) and Ivan and the Dogs (Actors Touring Company/Soho Theatre) – nominated for an Olivier Award.
Hannah Ringham is co-founder of the award-winning theatre collective SHUNT. She is an independent theatre maker, actor and artist. She has been part of the British Council showcase, commissioned by Oxford Playhouse and recently received an Arts in Mind Award from Kings College London. As actor/performer she has worked with writers Chris Thorpe, Caroline Horton and Tim Crouch as well as performing the clown at The Globe.
She has collaborated on several projects at The Gate including Dear Elizabeth in early 2019 and LETTERS in 2020.
Just before lockdown she received a development grant from the Arts Council for ‘New strategies for new projects for theatre and communities’ which she has been working on.
Moi Tran is an Artist/Performance maker/Researcher and Designer, her practice explores the intersections between Contemporary Art and Live Performance. Tran’s work includes as set & costume designer for Theatre, Film, Dance and Opera. She is founder of East Asian Ticket Club, an engagement platform for the BESEA community.
Recent Theatre include: Chiaroscuro(Bush);White Pearl(Royal Court);Dear Elizabeth(Gate); Summer Rolls (Park); Under the Umbrella (Belgrade/Tara Arts);Deluge (Hampstead).
Recent Art Performance include: The Bolero Effect – (VCCA Vietnam ,Hanoi);The Circuit- A Movement Scenario (Prague Quadrennial/OvalSpace/SPILL Festival);Three Women and a Duck (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand);The Other day you sat too far away from me( Henry Moore Courtyard);SLEEP( Live Art Development Agency, Royal Court).
Recent Awards/Commissions include: ArtHouse Artist in Residence;SPILL Festival; Curator Encounter Bow Chisenhale Dance; British Council Vietnam 2019;Arts and Culture Fellowship SEA 2019; OV12 Artist 2018.
Every single letter that was written had something honest, beautiful and insightful in it.
Here is a list of the poems each of our performers selected, hover your mouse over to pause the slides: