York Theatre Royal – 25 May 2021
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
This Romeo and Juliet was brought to the stage by The HandleBards, a cycling Shakespearean Company that cycles their way to different venues, usually playing outdoors. York Theatre Royal was fortunate enough to have them performing inside their theatre over two days this week.
Set on the stage with a rainbow of bunting either side of a large rainbow string curtain, we were introduced to Tom Dixon, Paul Moss and Lucy Green, the only three actors performing the show, all playing multiple roles and even sharing one role. Almost from the get-go the trio had the audience laughing with their take on Shakespeare and their use of such things as bicycle pumps and bells, as swords and rings, metres of red ribbon for blood. Juliet even wears the balcony, ingenious.
Green plays Juliet as proper teenager, having tantrums, sulky and petulant, screeching like an old fish wife when she cannot get her own way, but also giddy with her first love, giggling like the child that she really is. This was a wonderful and refreshing take on the character. Juliet and Romeo go in for their first chaste kiss, which quickly escalates into a full-blown snog, something you have no trouble in believing, with all those teenage hormones raging.
The change of characters was somewhat chaotic, but at the same time so effective. Wigs on and off, quick costume changes, props flying around, and I must mention Dixon’s change of accents with each character he portrayed, sounds to behold. It was all extremely fast paced and such a huge laugh. One of the biggest laughs of the evening was Green and the continued use of the “Holy Water”, until she got her comeuppance and ended up in desperate need of a towel.
We were treated to a bit of a song, to open and close the show, and a couple of tap dances thrown in for good measure, including the Sun, having his time to shine. There is even some audience participation, with a gentleman being singled out and this continues throughout the show with much merriment. The cast really looked like they were having a blast and the interaction with the audience cemented this, it was infectious.
“Three actors cooped up together during lockdown”. Fuelled by cabin fever and with a bookshelf full of Shakespeare, they did what they do best and created an unhinged and bonkers, laugh out loud version of Romeo & Juliet. That is what they promised us, and they certainly delivered. This may not be the Romeo and Juliet as you know it, more of a frenzied slapstick instead of a tragedy, but you do get the gist and it does loosely follow the story.
To be honest I am not a huge fan of the traditional Romeo and Juliet, I find it too wordy, but this is right up my street. A fabulous 90 minutes of pure entertainment and I for one will be watching out for future HandleBards performances around the York area.