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Julian Wilde @ The Blackpool Gazette - Versatile actors bring the bard to life

Versatile actors bring the bard to life

RAIN or Shine successfully overcame the challenge of an increasingly blustery Lytham evening to entertain a respectably-sized and appreciative audience in the first of the Fylde coast's outdoor productions this summer.

James Reynard's clear direction ensures that his cast of eight, playing 18 roles, always keep Shakespeare’s fanciful plot intelligible. The first act in which Reynard himself holds the stage as Leontes of Sicilia, the king who destroys all those he holds dear through his consuming jealousy, is sombre and wintry. The second very different act sees Craig Rogers as the likeable and tuneful rogue Autolycus leading the revels in summery Bohemia. David Middleton as a well-spoken Polixenes, Bill Cronshaw, commanding as Camillo, and Jayne Lloyd, forthright as Paulina and a ringer for Benny Hill as the Old Shepherd, all excel. Charlotte Kingsford, Pippa Meekings, and Nicholas Karpenko are impressively versatile in support. A simple and effective set, tellingly regal and rustic costumes, thoughtful lighting, inventive comedy and always exemplary audibility, despite the rustling trees, enabled the cast deal equally well with the tragic and the light-hearted.

The denouement, as Leontes is reunited with his wife and lost daughter, is dignified and moving, and audiences all around the country, like those in Lytham, will enjoy the well-judged pace and intelligence of this fine production during its 60-venue tour.

Julian Wilde @ The Blackpool Gazette


YVETTE CASTER @ Worcester News

Bizarre play proves a success


An ingenious bear, a musical pickpocket and a to-die-for backdrop were the stars of one of Shakespeare’s most bizarre plays. This outdoor production – from the Rain or Shine Theatre Company – was blessed with fine weather and the regal setting of Witley Court. James Reynard’s King Leontes was effectively fiery, while Charlotte Kingsford was suitably noble, good and true as the wronged Queen Hermione. A Winter’s Tale sees the jealous Sicilian king accuse his pregnant wife of sleeping with his best friend, Bohemian king Polixenes. Convinced that the queen’s baby is not his, he tells a courtier to dispose of little Perdita, who is left in the middle of a wood while the courtier famously exits, pursued by a bear. All the cast had excellent diction, which is necessary if you’re sitting outside at the back with someone opening packets of tarts for their picnic next to you. The the bear puppet was entertaining if not fearsome and the rogue Autolycus (Craig Rogers) brought some light relief with his tricks and pleasant guitar strumming. This was a merry way to spend an evening in any season.

Babington Meadow Arena, Penallt - 25 August 2008

A tale, merry or sad

 As the end of a short and particularly inclement summer marks the return of wind, rain and clouds, it is always a pleasure to be treated with a story in the pure tradition of ancient fire side winter tales. For our greatest contentment, the suitably named Rain or Shine Company revived one of Shakespeare’s last masterpieces this season.

A king insanely jealous, a newly-born princess lost and found, a queen long-dead brought back to life, a fierce bear, a colourful sheep-shearing festival, gullible shepherds and a boisterous rogue are indeed ideal stuff for a romance play. Alternately tragic and comic, the performance was full of visual treats, pleasant music and songs including Hiems from Love’s Labour’s Lost and hilarious ideas (the audience had to keep a careful eye as skilful Autolycus (Craig Rogers) was prompt to trick them out of their belongings).

From humble clown to mighty kings, the talented and cheerful cast of eight embodied the numerous characters with equal aplomb. Director James Reynard incarnated a roaring Leontes, overwhelmed with his destructive and ill- founded suspicions, later prostrate with remorse and sorrow. Producer Jayne Lloyd was Paulina, bravely facing the king in a desperate attempt to bring him back to reason, and the unnamed facetious Old Shepherd in the second part of the play. Charlotte Kingsford conveyed dignity and despair in the role of Hermione and Pippa Meekings convincingly portrayed a playful Mamillius and a graceful Perdita. Nicholas Karpenko as Prince Florizel challenged the authority of Polixenes (David Middleton) in one of the most exhilarating scenes whereas Thomas P. Jordan assumed the complex role of courtier Camillo torn between his loyalty to the king he serves and his reluctance to perform murderous duties.

As the ultimate and spectacular scene eventually broke the magic spell, the happy audience is now left with the satisfactory expectation of further performances. Next summer should see the cast back on stage with the difficult mission to tame a shrew...So long, Rain or Shine!

Florence Lacombe

Of course it should have been a balmy summer evening, the sun sinking slowly into a furnace of copper, chilled Pinot Grigio on the Castle terrace and a light zephyr breathing the warm balm of Sicilia over the assembled company. But that was asking too much.

We motored over last Saturday evening to Goodrich Castle, a lovely old pile in South Herefordshire, built of that peculiar purple-ish sandstone they go in for in those parts, for the specific purpose of getting a good soaking and incidentally to watch the Rain and Shine Theatre Company perform Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. As they say on the quiz shows: the clue is in the title.

Rain and Shine are an excellent troupe who perform Shakespeare and other classical plays in a rumbustious, burlesque, street theatre-ish style. Lots of noise, lots of clever and comic ‘business,’ deliberately hammy acting and audience involvement: on Saturday, the actors (well, two of them) fancying a drop of wine during the performance, simply helped themselves to the remains of someone’s picnic, for instance. Well worth seeing if you get the chance; more: well worth going an hour’s drive to see. Even in the rain. Even when the rain itself was over-acting, assisted by its fellow meteorological thesps: darkness and a half-gale.

I had never before seen The Winter's Tale, so this was a first for me, and, given the generally humid ambiance, not one I am likely to forget. I rather enjoyed it, I have to say - though it’s a curious piece, starting as it does as a serious tragedy all about how a man’s jealousy can ruin lives and marital harmony. But then, after King Leontes has caused his infant daughter (who he believes not to be his) to be abandoned far from the shores of his Kingdom of Sicilia, for which his faithful servant is then attacked by a bear so letting Shakespeare write his most famous stage direction ‘Exit pursued by a Bear,’ the play switches to comedy. Well, it has to really, otherwise the whole thing would become too silly, and the rest of the piece is a comedy with music, dance and song. Shakespeare as Lloyd Webber, you might say.

Leontes, even gets his beloved wife back whom, he cast into prison where she dies in the meantime of the false accusations hurled at her. Someone thoughtfully makes a life size statue of her, which then comes to life when Leontes takes responsibility for his terrible behaviour and she, dutifully and in a triumph of hope over experience, accepts him again as husband.

I did, I confess, as the rain started to descend in stair rods during the last half hour, wish that that final scene would quickly draw to a close so that we could all go home. "Yes, we know the statue is real!" I wanted to say, "so you can skip the gradual warming up bit." Warming up! Everyone was frozen. Hermione (the statue) I would have thought especially, standing stock still as she was in the rain soaked gale for half an hour with only a wispy tunic to protect her.

Camped on the wet grass I noticed we were sitting next to a seventeenth century mortar called Roaring Meg. A squat, tubby black thing resembling an iron toad. It had been cast locally when the Parliamentary commander besieging the Royalists of Goodrich in 1646 began to lose patience at their defiance. So with Meg’s helped he lobbed a few 200lb gunpowder filled shells into the castle and the walls, in true Biblical style, came tumbling down. Or so the notice said.

I couldn't help thinking, watching the droplets of rain swirling on the wind like snowflakes in the luminescence of the spotlights, that the play might even have been performed before, in this same castle courtyard or in the adjacent hall, in happier times, before Roaring Meg (why are cannons always female?) brought the great castle towers tumbling down.

I can't think of another country, other than Britain, where the company would be shown the same spirit - not only of 'The Show Must Go On' but also of 'The Show Must Be Watched.' Only when I started drying out did I discover how wet I was.

But as it ended and we stood to applaud the bravura of the cast and they applauded us in turn for our determination to stay to the end, and we packed up and waded back the long quarter mile in the muddy darkness to the car park, cold and soaked, I knew I was glad to have gone. There is more to theatre than ice cream in the warm trappings of the grand circle.

Fennie Somerville
Walford Mill, Wimborne - Marilyn Barber - Stour and Avon Magazine.-

WHEN the Rain or Shine Theatre Company formed ten years ago, they little realised that one summer they would have to perform predominantly in the rain. And so it was last Saturday, when Walford Mill in Wimborne was one of 60 venues across the UK to host an outdoor production of The Winter's Tale.


However, the heartening fact is that not only are people prepared to turn out to watch Shakespeare, they are undeterred by wet and wintry conditions. Hoods and umbrellas went up and it was clear the weather wasn't going to detract from this professional performance.


The Winter's Tale, described as a romance or tragicomedy, is a complex tale of jealousy and mistaken identity laced with more than a measure of mirth. Produced by Jayne Lloyd, who also appeared as Paulina, wife of Antigonus, and as an old shepherd, it had a number of innovative touches that clearly delighted the supportive audience. The pace of the first half seemed a little slow, but this was rectified in the second half, which galloped to its happy conclusion.


Professional actors to a man - and woman - it is hard to single out one performer above another. However Charlotte Kingsford deserves a mention for her passionate portrayal of Hermione, wrongly accused of being unfaithful to King Leontes. In addition Craig Rogers brought a smile to every rain-soaked face as the rogue Autolycus who bore more than a passing resemblance to Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. We look forward to the return of Rise and Shine next year.


Marilyn Barber

Stour and Avon Magazine.

KINLET NEWSLETTER - Rob Wilcox - July 2008
It is with a heavy heart that I write my final critique before taking up my new position as foreign correspondent for THE KINLET NEWSLETTER. Watch this space for Bollywood movie reviews. Once again the Rain or Shine Theatre Company provided an excellent evening’s entertainment and as always their highly skilled performance took you on a roller-coaster ride through psychological drama, tragedy, comedy, and romance; even if the plot itself has absurdity and paradox, like a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. It’s amazing to think that by means of some convincing casting, ingenious cutting and reassignment of lines a spectacle is produced by a cast of just eight versatile actors. Even the most famous stage direction ‘Exit pursued by a bear’ was given a real twist with the melodramatic, innards-wrenching scene of blood, guts and body parts. And this is not just for the Shakespeare buffs, there really is something in it for everybody with my 7-year-old son really liking the buffoonish interplay between the teddy and the mask, whilst my 5-year-old daughter liked the magic of the statue coming to life at the end. This is Shakespeare as it should be; a production to make you laugh and make you think. A less well-known play, The Winter’s Tale is nonetheless full of the clever use of language that we love. Although I thought Hermione was from Harry Potter and ‘jog on’ was a quote from Hot Fuzz – how uncultured I have been. It is no wonder that the British always talk about the weather, as there is always something to say about it.  This year’s play was a case in point, with the unseasonably cold conditions providing an appropriate feeling for the setting of The Winter’s Tale.  Luckily we snuggled up closely under a duvet and enjoyed the experience. With the idyllic location I thoroughly recommend buying tickets for next year, only come prepared: sunglasses/cream, duvets, waterproof trousers, umbrellas (anything might happen!).Did you know?  Shakespeare may have been a good dramatist but he was a bit shaky in geography – Bohemia has no seacoast. Rob Wilcox, Chief Theatre Critic



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