REVIEW: The HandleBards: Richard III, Crook Hall, Durham

The HandleBards.
The HandleBards.

The historic tragedy of Richard III became a madcap comedy caper when the HandleBards got their hands on it.

My face ached from laughing so hard as the boys – Paul Hilliar, Matt Maltby, Liam Mansfield and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge – took us through the Royal’s devious rise to power and his short reign.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Durham’s Crook Hall, the show was a hilarious and joyous theatrical treat.

The HandleBards are cycling 1,500 miles from London to Edinburgh, carrying everything they need to stop off and put on shows along the way.

As much as I love Shakespeare, I’ll admit I sometimes find the histories a little boring. There was no risk of that with these guys though.

Mansfield took on the title role, while the others played the other 40 characters between them, signalling the change of persona with a ding of the mini bicycle bells worn on their fingers.

The HandleBards: Richard III

The HandleBards: Richard III

The actors completely transformed for their different roles, sometimes rather swiftly as they jumped back and forth swapping hats, and whipping glasses on and off their faces to have conversations with themselves.

Each character had a clear identity, with everything from the body language, voice, and facial expressions completely distinguishable from the last person they were playing.

The accents made a huge difference as well, and provided some of the rib-tickling comedy moments – Shakespeare in a thick Brummy accent is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

Bicycle-themed props, like pumps for swords, and make-shift musical instruments, including a mop that became a one-stringed electric ‘guitar’, were geniusly-inventive.

The HandleBards.

The HandleBards.

The HandleBards have a real unique take on Shakespeare, and it’s how it should be – fun for people of all ages.

Their silliness provides endless fun and laugh-out-loud moments, and their expert command of the complex language is beyond impressive.

A glorious five-star production that will have you giggling uncontrollably.

The boys are at Cobalt Park, in Newcastle tonight with Much Ado About Nothing. Click here to read a review and here to book tickets.

For the first time, an all-female version of the HandleBards are also on tour. Click here to find out more.