'Love Letters' performed at the National Drama Festival Association's All Winners Festival 2021. The Albany Theatre, Coventry.

Following on from last month's anticipation, we've been reflecting on the experience itself.

As everyone was aware, this was the first theatre performance for White Cobra since lockdown. Having performed in another two-hander as the last WC theatrical performance before lockdown, it seemed like we had 'bookended' the pandemic.

Although we performed on the day after 'Freedom Day', the festival organisers were maintaining Covid precautions with the use of masks and social distancing measures being observed as much as possible. Despite these unusual elements, we soon began to remember and experience the old familiar joys of touring and the 'get-in' at a new theatre. The theatre team seemed even more welcoming than usual and nothing was too much trouble. It didn't take long to get into the swing of things and it was as if the last 16 months had flown by.

The usual search for set photos from the previous productions (yes, I still had them on my phone 4 years later) followed by the old feeling of bewilderment that what seems to be the simplest piece of set dressing always takes the longest to create and position; the technical rehearsal where the actors and stage manager are going about their business on stage, only to be plunged into darkness, as lighting cues are set up and someone remembers to call out, "Going dark!"; making sure the tech and stage management team are supplied with the best provisions - Jaffa cakes and Haribo as standard; using the offer of a full run through to make the most of performing such a great piece; taking more photos of the set, 'just in case...'

I mentioned last month that 'Love Letters' is the perfect production for a socially distanced situation; 'Andy' and 'Melissa' sit at either end of the stage and do not even look at each other until Andy's last speeches, when Melissa, moved by Andy's honesty and emotional realisations, finally looks at him.

Although, I was looking forward to playing Melissa again, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, the experience did not disappoint. I identified even more with her than before; she is a wonderful creation and a joy to inhabit. Perhaps not being able to look at or interact with each other ,apart from responding via reading the letters, makes this beautifully written e piece feel even more powerful? Fraser's delivery of those last speeches was incredibly moving and Paul Fowler, the adjudicator, admitted to "a bit of a lump in my throat and something in my eye..."  

Fraser and I returned to the theatre to represent White Cobra on the last evening of the festival. As our production of 'Love Letters' was not in competition and therefore ineligible for any of the awards, you can imagine our surprise when it was announced that the Sydney Fisher award was to be presented to White Cobra. This is awarded by the festival backstage team to the group whose production they have enjoyed the most and with whom they have most enjoyed working during the course of the festival; it felt very special.

It was a real privilege to be asked to support this festival and the incredible effort of the festival team to make it happen under such challenging circumstances. Here's to more of the same.

- Bernadette Wood