Self-proclaimed Jewish-Geordie Ben Van Der Velde offers a warm, witty and refreshingly passionate tale depicting his quest to rekindle the art of letter-writing and save it from its seemingly inevitable decline at the hands of 21st Century technology. His comedic adventure begins with the posting of four letters to long lost friends and his attempt to follow their trails - becoming a real-life human chain letter.
Van Der Velde is exceptionally likeable, building a natural and comfortable rapport with the audience, and does well to create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. ‘I like the idea that one letter can be more important than another’ he notes, referring to the first and second-class stamp system. The show touches on true moments of sentimentality, as Van Der Velde demonstrates a genuine, personal belief in the importance of his objective.
His first solo hour long Fringe show, the comedian’s words paint an absurdly brilliant cast of characters: the Israeli bodyguard; Goths fishing in Camden town; a gay Egyptian Michael Jackson impersonator and the superbly named Dr Falcon Santiago. Likewise, the audience is taken on an eloquent and amusing journey through history and across the globe; with reference to the 12th Century Chinese postal service and 14th Century chain letters, said to be ‘letters from heaven’. Van Der Velde’s sheer range of characters, locations and topics is astoundingly varied and leads to a vibrant and gripping show.
At times, jokes fell a little flat and the piece generally leaned far more towards interesting and warming than ‘laugh out loud’. Van Der Velde began with real enthusiasm and his interactions with the audience were by the far the most natural parts of the show; it was a shame therefore, that at times his work felt slightly over-rehearsed and quite recited. Perhaps this derives from him reading directly from so many letters.
However, it was a rewarding, sharp and delightful tale delivered for the most part with true personality. Amusing and offering an important central moral, this is well worth a watch.