He is a Londoner and starred in Pilot Theatre’s production of This Child in 2008. She is from Vancouver, Canada, and has just recorded a yogurt commercial and a couple of short films after graduating from RADA this summer. As soon as they met at the auditions, however, Oliver Wilson, 23, and professional stage debutante Rachel Spicer, 22, knew the chemistry was right for playing his Romeo to her Juliet in Pilot’s “love story for the 21st century”, as Charles Hutchinson discovers.

What are you first memories of Romeo And Juliet, Rachel?

“I think it was my first Shakespeare play, studying it at school. I must have been 13.

I think, culturally, in terms of growing up, you’re aware of what that Shakespeare person was responsible for, and I probably knew what Romeo And Juliet was before I knew who Shakespeare was.”

What about you, Oliver?

“I remember doing it in my English studies, and it was my first approach to understanding the language… and it was the time of the Baz Luhrmann film coming out. So it was young and colourful, and there were guys with guns rather than men in tights.”

Do you believe in love at first sight, Oliver?

“I believe that sometimes you can meet someone and within the first couple of minutes you can connect with them.

“And I believe that people have an aura and energy and you can bond with them and find that chemistry with them.

“Yes, in some respects I do believe that. I think you meet someone and feel, ‘You know what, I could fall in love with you; you’re amazing, and how great it would be to be with you’.”

The two actors playfully share a moment, moving in and out of character at this juncture.

What do you recall of first love, Rachel?

“I think first love is kind of like the first Harry Potter book. Love gets progressively more brilliant, but you always go back to the first one because you’d never experienced anything like that before. It might not be the best or the healthiest, but it was the first time that I’d experienced such feelings and my heart and eyes were opened to such things… and then your heart is broken and you think, ‘No one told me about this part’.”

Do you draw on your own experiences in love or play to the text, Oliver?

“Naturally, in some sense, you do draw on your experiences: what it’s like to kiss someone for the first time and that thing of having sex for the first time, but for me and Rachel, playing Romeo and Juliet, we’ve been developing it for ourselves.

“We were quite full on from the first audition… They laugh and lock eyes…

“We just kind of have our own thing,” Oliver continues. “But In terms of what I do in this play, I don’t think about my past relationships, I draw on the situation. It’s a different way of wooing someone.”

Do you call on your past, Rachel?

“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I just let everything inform the moment. Like the expectation for Romeo and Juliet to conform to society and not be allowed to get out of the ‘box’ that everyone else is in; that’s why Shakespeare is so relevant and timeless.”

Be honest, Oliver, what did you think of Romeo before landing the part?

“When I got offered the part and spoke to my agent, I thought, ‘I want to play Mercutio; Romeo is a bit of wet guy’! But Romeo is not a wet sop; he’s not just some romantic guy, though he does love poetry, but he’s not a stereotype soft puppy. He’s just as crazy as the rest of them. That’s why he’s Mercutio’s best friend.

“He’s witty; he banters with the boys; he kills two people; so he’s one of the lads.

“In my journey, we’re trying to ‘feel the pain’, being in love, but also being a bit cheeky, a bit sexy, a bit romantic, and I would like to think he’ll give Mercutio a run for his money.”

As for Juliet, she is the dream role for an actress fresh out of RADA, isn’t she, Rachel?

“She’s tops! She’s just the ingénue. It’s like it all started from Juliet and went from there, and I think that’s because she goes from A to Z in the course of two hours.

“But you can’t think of everyone who’s played her, otherwise it’s too daunting to take on the role. She’s just a girl, he’s just a boy, and they’re like every other kid who gets their heart broken and feels their parents betrayed them.

“So, though she’s special, she’s also human.”

• York Theatre Royal and resident company Pilot Theatre present Romeo & Juliet at York Theatre Royal from September 10 to 25, then on tour for 22 weeks. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

• After-show discussions will be held on September 16 at 2pm, September 21 at 7.30pm and September 23 at 2pm.