I FIND it frustrating that if you want to give yourself any chance at all of knowing what on earth is going on in a Shakespeare play, you have to read a plot synopsis beforehand.

It’s like reading the last page of a novel before you’ve even started – it kills the suspense and drama.

Billed as “bold and contemporary”, I had high hopes that this production of The Winter’s Tale, which ran for two nights at the Theatre Royal, would be different.

And it was in a way. Admittedly, I still struggled to get to grips with the Shakespearean language – but the cast of nine, sharing 19 characters between them – gave exceptional performances and brought the script to life in a way I hadn’t thought was possible.

But it was still missing something – it didn’t seem to evoke any emotion in me. I should have been moved to tears when Hermione was reunited with the daughter taken away from her at birth. But instead, I felt nothing.

Perhaps the only scene in the play that went anywhere close to stirring something was the courtroom scene, where the exchange between Hermione (Amanda Ryan) and King Leontes (Vince Leigh) was incredibly powerful.

But even then, the tension was ruined by the fits of coughing that had broken out among those asthmatic theatre-goers who couldn’t cope with the smell of incense.

It was potentially a clever touch – helping to recreate the mood of a dark and sombre church – but unfortunately the idea backfired.

If any cast members has to be singled out, it should be John Hodgkinson, who raised many laughs with his comical performances as Antigonus and later, the lovable rogue Autolycus.

The Winter’s Tale, Schtanhaus and Headlong, Takeover ’09 Festival, York Theatre Royal, September 30