Review: The HandleBard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
The all-male troupe are touring the UK exploring love, magic and theatre, with high socks, braces and plastic cups for bosoms. This unforgettable retelling of the tale, resonates with an audience from the young to the less young, with humour, fun and waddling at every turn. Even though they cycle over 1,500 miles over a course over a year, only a five year old theatre company, and the play itself is over 400 years old, the entertainment of theatre hasn’t been lost along the way.
The idea that there’s no stage never defeats Designer Nik Corrall. With what’s carried on their back and bike, they devise a contraption with delight and dandyism to whisk us away to the woods where our tale is set. The costume is simple, yet distinct and the multi-rolling was never lost within the heat of the scene, with a clear sound of a bell and a costume swap, who they were was clear. The use of props helps break the ice between audience and actor especially when it involves a water gun.
The relationship with the audience was the core of their piece, which Shakespeare would even be proud of. Their simple stride was full of zest and energy. The energy unlocked audience interaction, and then through the duration of the piece blossomed. There was audience participation for the roles of fairies such as “Peaseblossom” and, in our case, “David.” Moreover, when the fight for love arose, the fight of food emerged too as they stole baked goods, treats and, later in the show, even wine from the audience. This key bond with the audience was essential in Shakespeare’s day, which is why ad lib, soliloquies and entering the audience space are present in both performances. The Handlebards have learnt from the universal techniques of past, and employed them in a masterful manner, which is faithful to tradition as the best performers usually played the clowns.
The mechanics and clowns are usually at threat in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as many interpretations have to cut one of the three components of the tale for time and convenience; either the fairies, mechanics or romantic couples has to go. Director James Farrell did not come to such a shortcoming and encourages humour to lessen the blow of heavy Shakespearean poetry. Meanwhile the cast of five want to outdo each other and do so in style. The night was full of laughter, cheers and applause.
The night did end in drizzle, but that didn’t rain on their parade and Puck (played by Paul Moss) concludes with conviction. If you want a chic and intoxicating romantic tale, this isn’t a show for you. If you want show which is accessible and enjoyable by all, which leaves you with a smile at the end, this is a show for you. After all, it is a comedy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” features Tom Dixon, Calum Hughes-McIntosh, Paul Moss, and Matthew Seager.
The creative team includes Nik Corrall as Designer, and James Farrell as Director.
There are performances all of the UK and The HandleBards are appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For further information about Shakespeare On Bikes, the schedule of performances, venues with “pay-what-you-feel performances,” and links to tickets (from £11.00 to £12.00 per person), please visit http://www.handlebards.com/.
Running time for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is 2 hours without interval.