V&V is a cleverly-constructed analysis of communication in relationships, presenting two pairs of lovers in different periods through the medium of their correspondence. It contrasts letter-writing with texting, and 1920s subtext with 2020 nude pics - but it also demonstrates that people haven’t really changed all that much in 100 years. All the emotion of human existence is here, but especially the excruciating awkwardness of trying to express your feelings about someone else.
In the late 1920s, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West exchange letters, charting the ups and downs of their decade-long relationship. Meanwhile, in the present day, Lottie and Mia hook up on a dating app and their relationship is shown through their text messages to one another. Each actor takes two parts (Virginia and Lottie, Vita and Mia), speaking their written words aloud to the audience, inviting us into the intimate details of their lives as they switch back and forth between roles and time periods.
The rich, luscious prose of the 1920s letters conveys incredible sensuality and desire. In contrast, the sometimes-explicit textspeak of the modern young women often conceals the way they really think and feel, as they try to act casual and out-cool each other without exposing their neuroses. Much of the humour is found in the way Lottie and Mia react with horror and embarrassment to what they’ve just committed to text - but their inability to be honest about their feelings is also quite painful to watch.
Where the show excels is in the way the actors interact with each other on stage. Although they are constantly addressing and moving around one another, their characters never actually share physical space or speak face-to-face. So, they are continually edging closer and closer, but always pulling away before they actually touch - effectively conveying the frustration of their desire and separation.
It does get a bit repetitive towards the end; the modern women in particular go through an endless cycle of false assumptions, misunderstandings and failures to admit the strength of their feelings. It may be an accurate portrayal of people’s inability to communicate openly and honestly, but it stopped being amusing after a while.
But the weaving together of the two stories is very well done, showing that while our grammar may have slipped considerably since 1925, our desire to find a connection with another human being is constant. Relationships are hard, and their success or failure often depends on how we use our words.