Romeo and Juliet at Chedworth Manor

“Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night;
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night...”

We pull our rugs around our shoulders a little more tightly, unable to take our eyes off the young Juliet as the sky begins to darken. Behind us the sunset is streaking the horizon with pink and green, and the first large moths of the evening flit softly between us.

All around us people are spread in little groups across the bumpy sloping field, sitting on folding chairs or on cushions. Beside us are scattered the remains of our picnics, the empty glasses, flasks and hampers.

In the dip below us and behind the players lie the mellow roofs of the Manor House and its outbuildings. The little ancient church stands only a few feet away from the house, its soft amber lights coming on behind the stained glass windows as the daylight fades. Its clock tolls the hour at exactly the appropriate moment in the drama, as the director has neatly planned.

It had been fine and dry when we arrived at Chedworth Manor after navigating through deep lanes, hollowed out by centuries of horse drawn vehicles. We were in unknown timeless territory, blurred by the ages.

It was half an hour before we spotted a sign saying Manor House, and turned as instructed up a long drive. We had been told to look out for a cricket pitch. Surely not, we thought? But there it was, sitting snugly within the grounds of the manor. A groundsman was carefully steering a large sit-on mower, indifferent to the line of  2x4 vehicles crawling past him.

Enchanted, we have watched the promised "two hour traffic of our stage" as the tragedy of the young lovers is so poetically portrayed. If these are indeed amateurs, two firemen among them, they have given us far more pleasure than the official RSC production we sat through in Stratford a couple of a years ago. There the play was shouted and gabbled on a bare stage by actors in modern dress waving pistols instead of swords,  an experience to be endured rather than enjoyed.

But tonight we have seen a simple, clear interpretation of that most beautiful of all love stories, simply acted in exquisite Elizabethan costumes, the background music matching the mood.

Moved by the tragic deaths of the young lovers, we quietly gather up our belongings and trudge up to the barn car park to drive home. By the side of the lane near the noble remains of the Roman villa, our sidelights pick out a young fox. He watches us steadily as we drive by.

Somehow the sight of him sets the seal on a magical evening.

Richard Vaughan-Davies

I retired to the Cotswolds ten years ago after selling the retail business in North Wales which I had built up over forty long years. Fortunately for my sanity most of my time was spent creating advertising copy and promotions, which dramatically increased the business and taught me the power of words. Being a member of the Chippy Writers’ Group encouraged me to attempt a lifelong ambition to write a novel. Recently published, In the Shadow of Hitler is a romance set in the ruins of bombed-out Hamburg in 1946.

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