NEVER in the history of Shakespeare Live will its company ever experience a first night like the one I watched on Monday at Cleeve House in Seend.

The players braved wind and rain as they battled against the elements to perform William Shakespeare's late romance, The Winter's Tale, outdoors.

Celebrating their 32nd anniversary, Shakespeare Live gave a sterling rendition of the play, which was written around 1610-11.

Director Gill Morrell produced an exciting and fast-moving production of one of The Bard's most popular plays, with its themes including friendship and love, jealousy, loss and reconciliation.

In between are near-tragedy, romance, partying peasants, a touch of magic and, weirdly, a six-legged bear!

In view of the weather, I thought the dedicated company gave exceptional performances in conditions where some would have called off the event.

The stand-out performance of the evening for me was Barbara Ingledew's Paulina, railing against King Leontes for his treatment of Queen Hermione.

Shakespeare Live has decided to go for a late start at 7.45pm, rather than the 7pm start it really needs, meaning it ends around 11pm.

Dress up warm and take a coat if the current inclement weather continues. If the sun shines, arrive early and enjoy a picnic from 12.30pm for the matinee and from 6.30pm for the evening performances, plus some extra live entertainment on Saturday’s Gala Night.

John Baker