The thing about Shakespeare, is that everyone takes him so seriously. Are we being faithful to the text? Have we captured the context of the time? What exactly was he trying to say here? Angst and hours have been sweated over trying to read and perform the perfect Shakespeare play. But maybe we’re just meant to have a bit of fun with it?
That’s certainly what Handlebards do. The company cycling actors who carry all the set, props and costume needed to perform extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays.
What’s not to love?
Especially when they are hosted by The Marlowe Theatre and performing on a sunny evening at Greyfriars Gardens, just down from The Marlowe’s new space, The Kit. Picnic and drinks at the ready, it was an ideal place to soak up some culture – and raise a few smiles.
In Much Ado About Nothing we see each one of the four male actors take on multiple parts, clearly differentiated by cycling bibs and handlebars. Audience participation was ramped up, and we had two very open and enthusiastic participants take on parts when it was called for. Slapstick came to the fore – as it would have done for the groundlings in Shakespeare’s day – and they played with language and lyricism to make the plot skip along without losing any of the quick wit that the play relies on. Cross dressing, a bit of drunkenness, and a lot of laughs all come to the fore, and make the two hours skip along merrily for all involved. Plotting, frivolity and capers ensue, and the audience is kept captivated and excited as the troupe bounce of each other and the audience.
It’s all enormously good fun. Which is sometimes just how Shakespeare should be.