Tolethorpe review: Rain doesn’t dampen the spirits of Romeo and Juliet cast

Romeo and Juliet EMN-150519-151215001

Romeo and Juliet EMN-150519-151215001

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You wouldn’t expect a line as simple as ‘It’s a hot day’ to draw laughs from an audience.

But, as the cast of Romeo and Juliet performed in the pouring rain on Saturday afternoon at Tolethorpe Hall, this Shakespearian classic did just that.

While Stamford Shakespeare Company is rightly proud that no performance is ever cancelled because of the rain, it was hard not to feel sorry for the cast who had no doubt looked forward to the first weekend performance of this popular play.

During the opening dance, which had clearly been practiced to perfection, there was a sharp intake of breath from the sold-out audience as a gypsy lost her footing on the wet stage. But an equally loud cheer when she jumped back up and into the routine.

At one point, Romeo, slipped as he ran towards his beloved Juliet during the famous ‘Romeo, Romeo, oh where for art thou Romeo’ scene. But the actor who played him Oliver Guilliatt didn’t miss a beat as he flashed a cheeky look at the audience before continuing as if nothing had happened, showing he’s one to watch for the future.

As he shared his first kiss with leading lady Harriet Spence, it was clear there was chemistry between Romeo and Juliet.

The actors clothes might have been damp from the rain but their spirits certainly weren’t. It was a tale of two families and a play of two halves. The first half was packed with jokes, delivered in a way that the audience could understand despite the prose being more than 400 years old. Mercutio, played by Richard Byron-White, had perfect comedic timing and a tone to match.

Following a short interval - so the chilly audience could grab a cup of tea and the chilly cast could grab a towel - the tone had changed and opened with an angry speech from Capulet, ordering his already-married daughter Juliet to marry the worthy bachelor Paris. Richard Coville delivered it superbly and it wasn’t just Juliet cowering in fear.

But for me, the stand-out character, was the nurse, played to near perfection by Angela Harris. Every line she delivered was met with raucous laughter from the audience and she was full of lewd references and knowing looks that you just don’t expect to see in a Shakespearian tragedy.

The only disappointment for me is that it’s tradition of Stamford Shakespeare Company that there’s no curtain call at the end of the performance because the cast richly deserved one, for not only braving the horrendous weather but for doing it with style.

Romeo and Juliet is performed until August 15 on alternate weeks with the other two plays for the 2015 season - Henry V and Tom Jones.

Book online at www.stamfordshakespearecompany.co.uk or call the box office on 01780 756133.