Vault Festival: V&V

Images by Ali Wright


Studio at The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.


3-8 Mar, 7.20pm. Running time 1 hr.


Written and directed by Misha Pinnington. Produced by Sprezzatura Productions. Sound by Nicola Chang, lighting by Rachel Sempley. Performed by EM Williams and Heather Wilkins.


“V&V charts two narratives: the iconic love story of literary treasure Virginia Woolf and esteemed socialite Vita Sackville-West; and a far newer story of Lottie from Tunbridge Wells and love cynic Mia”.

EM Williams in V&V. Image by Ali Wright.
EM Williams in V&V. Image by Ali Wright.


Although the play may assume prior knowledge of both Virginia and Vita (Mrs Harold Nicholson), it does tease out their passionate correspondence and contrasts it with the modern instant messaging of the 21st century, in which Lottie and Mia meet online and then progress into a full relationship.

Both couples (wouldn’t it have been fun to have a modern V&V like Vicky and Val or something?) go through the same agonies and uncertainties with the ambiguous written word and periods of silence, proving such insecurities are nothing new.

With purples and links highlighting the historical scenes, and blues the modern ones, we are guided through the complex play which requires both EM Williams (Vita and Mia) and Heather Wilkins (Virginia and Lottie) to slip between their characters quickly and effortlessly.

Heather Wilkins and EM Williams in V&V. Image by Ali Wright.
Heather Wilkins and EM Williams in V&V. Image by Ali Wright.

Virginia and Vita met in 1922 and became firm friends through the social dinner party circuit, and through their relationship penned many letters in heightened poetic language to each other. Vita was ten years younger, but inspired her lover to create Orlando in 1928, a book which celebrates the unusual and the androgynous.

The modern story of experienced but distant Mia and over-keen and wide-eyed Lottie starts on a dating site then moves into real intimacy, this time far more frankly explored and described. Lottie and Mia delight and hurt each other just as much as their counterparts of a hundred years before, proving relationships remain an emotional minefield.

Williams brings a believable couple of characters to the table: their Mia takes a while to uncoil and in one heartbreaking scene begs Lottie through IM to communicate, their body close to collapse; as Vita, their joy and love for Virginia is clear throughout even as the letters totter on the edge of teasing.

Wilkins is both funny and deeply insecure as Lottie, bubbling with excitement as each new message is received and popping with mischief as she gets involved in ‘sexting’; her Virginia is quieter and needier in a different way, but direct as she invites Vita to “come and see” her four-poster bed.

Judgement: Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

It’s a Wow for this slow-burner of a play. I enjoyed the scope of Misha Pinnington’s writing and her assured direction, and was ultimately immersed in the world of V&V.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see V&V.