A love letter to ‘The Silent Twins’ star, Letitia Wright
From ‘Wakanda’ to Wales, the British actor’s talent knows no bounds, says Hanna Flint
Saturday 10 December 2022 By Hanna Flint
Fans of Letitia Wright have been eating good in 2022. If we ignore the woeful Death On The Nile for a second and focus on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Aisha and The Silent Twins, the Guyanese-British actor has served up a veritable buffet of tantalising performances that have rightfully earned critical and audience acclaim.
Just this week, Wright, along with her The Silent Twins co-star Tamara Lawrance, received the BIFA award for Best Joint Lead Performance. The pair played the eponymous sisters June and Jennifer Gibbons in Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s biographical drama based on journalist Marjorie Wallace’s book of the same name. From a young age, the twins refused to speak with anyone other than themselves in a special language, and though bursting with literary talent the pair end up in the notorious Broadmoor psychiatric hospital after committing petty crimes. ‘It’s a quartet of performances in total sync,’ notes critic Clarisse Loughrey about Wright, Lawrance, Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter (who played younger versions of June and Jennifer). ‘The actors subtly tease out the ideological differences that the women occasionally clashed over.’
The Silent Twins comes hot on the tail of Aisha, a powerful drama from writer-director Frank Berry about Wright’s titular protagonist and the battle she faces in the Irish immigration system. Aisha is a young Nigerian who was forced to leave her mother and seek asylum in Ireland due to a threat to her life. While waiting for her claim to be processed, the patient woman must deal with jobsworths at the housing facility she lacks autonomy in, government bureaucracy, and an expanding shadow of despair and sadness over her purgatorial state. The film almost feels like a documentary because of its cinéma-vérité sensibility that empathetically captures every nuance, microaggression and emotion on display. Wright is utterly moving and loses herself in the performance, so that all you see is Aisha and the pain, frustration and depression she’s experiencing in her unforgiving circumstances. Her return as Shuri in the sequel to 2018’s Black Panther is just as soulful a rendering of the human condition associated with loss and powerlessness.
Grief has often been used as fuel for superhero storytelling, but in this particular MCU franchise, it has never felt more resonant because of the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman. From the cold opening of Ryan Coogler’s second Black Panther instalment, it was abundantly clear how devastating a loss Boseman was to everyone on the film. For Wright, it may very well have served as both an artistic and cathartic way to process his death through T’Challa’s fictional demise and the guilt Shuri feels for not being able to use her ingenuity to save him as the world’s smartest person. The actor beautifully, heartbreakingly channels her real grief into a performance that shifts with restrained vulnerability, but later bubbles with indignant rage as she is forced to take up the Black Panther mantle to prevent another war from emerging from the deep.
When Black Panther came out it was the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and won three of its seven categories, including Best Production Design, Original Score and Costume Design. Maybe this time around the Academy will see fit to include Wright in its Best Actress list, because her performance in Shuri was world class for a superhero flick. It was also a true testament to this actor’s ability to encapsulate the full breadth of what it means to be a human being dealing with unspeakable loss, but having to power through. Every performance Wright has delivered this year has confirmed why she’s one of the most formidable talents Britain has to offer the screen world. I can’t wait to see what she gifts us with next.
If you aren’t aware of 2:22 A Ghost Story, then I commend you for your Instagram usage because I’ve been getting sponsored ads about it in my feed ever since the West End show opened in 2021. Lily Allen was in the original cast as Jenny, a woman who thinks her house is haunted when it opened at the Noël Coward Theatre. Although she doesn’t have many acting credits to her name, Allen impressed enough to earn an Olivier award nomination.
Since she left the play, a host of budding celebrities have been filling Jenny’s shoes in a bid to replicate Allen’s success. Giovanna Fletcher replaced her when the show moved to the Gielgud Theatre; Laura Whitmore recently played the character in its Criterion run. And now Cheryl (the popstar formerly known as Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini) will take over when the production moves to the Lyric Theatre next year.
The way this show goes through cast members, I’ll be playing Jenny by 2024. I look forward to your standing ovation.
Catch one of various screenings of ‘The Silent Twins’ around the Houses from 15 December onwards.