CATHEDRAL bells, twittering birds and the occasional popping of champagne bottles punctuated the lines of the most famous love tragedy in the English language.

With a backdrop of the fading late summer sun, Tuesday night’s performance of Romeo and Juliet, by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was staged in the appropriate setting of the Fellows Garden, in the grounds at Durham Castle.

The touring seven-strong all-male cast skilfully doubled up roles as they presented a fast-paced, moderately abridged version of the Shakespeare classic to an appreciative sell-out audience.

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Will Haddington’s Romeo was a modern ‘dandy’, with youth and agility he hopped about the stage, while Jonathan Bullock, in the manner of Shakespeare’s own performing troupe, the original Lord Chamberlain’s Men, donned female attire to masquerade as an effete Juliet, skittishly fussing with her hair and dress while flirting with Romeo and plaguing her nurse.

John Sandeman contributed a macho element with his rendition of Mercutio, exhibiting skilful movement, particularly during his duel with Will Richards’ Tybalt, at one point nimbly helping himself to some crisps from a bemused picnicking audience member.

David O’Connor also played a humorous and overbearing nurse for Juliet.

The simplistic set, designed by Morgan Brind, did not distract from either attention to the players or the beautiful grounds in which the performance took place, but provided various levels on which to perform the ever famous “balcony scene”.

The weather held out for the relieved onlookers who came prepared with a whole host of weather-beating paraphernalia, but nothing more than a warm jumper was necessary to make this a most comfortable, pleasurable and entertaining evening.

Hannah Unwin