Bernie Wood

Love Letters traces the lifelong correspondence of the staid and dutiful Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and the lively, unstable Melissa Gardner. The story of their bittersweet relationship gradually unfolds from what is written - and what is left unsaid - in their letters.

The play is designed to be read aloud from the scripts on a simple set and does not require the script to be learned. So, whilst being familiar with the script is an advantage, it promotes spontaneity in the performance. And whilst the script doesn’t have to be learned, the piece does provide other challenges. The actors still have to keep the audience engaged while they are reading the letters, whilst trying not to ‘act’ too much.

When White Cobra first approached the production, it was intended to be a piece that could be performed upon request with little preparation required. At that time a limited run with 4 sets of actors (Pat Bancroft and Brian Hall; Lynne 'O'Sullivan and Paul Fowler; Kimberley Vaughan and Rod Arkle; myself and Fraser Haines) was completed. However, a national, professional production was planned soon after we had all performed it for the first time and so any plans had to be dropped. Until now.  

I would say that with the current uncertainty and practical issues that may still exist around rehearsing and performing plays with larger casts, Love Letters provides an ideal solution. In fact, it can benefit the concept as the intention is for the actors to be seated at a distance and not to look at each other during the performance. This also makes 'Zoom' rehearsing an actual benefit! (not a concept I've heard expressed much recently)

I was drawn to Melissa from the very first reading. I found her honesty, her 'ballsiness' (am I allowed to say that?) [yes you can! - Ed], her initial love of life and her refusal to compromise, inspirational and she moves me incredibly.  

Usually, it's during the rehearsal period when one gets to explore and understand a character. And whilst that did happen to a certain extent during our original rehearsals, I found that the performance was where I got to really live and love Melissa, introducing her to a live audience.

I have also found in the past that revisiting a character after some time can often provide even further insight. Melissa is no exception. My original response to her and the things that resonated with me 4 years ago have only deepened. That, combined with a rare opportunity to take centre stage, makes performing 'Love Letters' at the All Winners Festival in July (Covid dependent) an experience which I will treasure.