ComedyDramaNorth East & YorkshireReviewShakespeare

Romeo and Juliet – York Theatre Royal, York

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Written by: William Shakespeare

Adapted and Directed by: The Handlebards

You might think you know Shakespeare, but you’ve never seen it done like The Handlebards do it! Minimal set, minimal cast, and an absolute cornucopia of mad props and costume changes crammed into a single act. The Handlebards signature move is cycling up to a venue, unpacking, and performing. As the rain was pounding down outside for press night, it was very welcome that they had chosen to return Romeo and Juliet to the stage post Covid, rather than their usual outdoor spaces, sad as it is to see their bicycles missing.

The text is still those well known words of Shakespeare, but this 90 minute adaptation takes one of his best known works and gives it the pantomime treatment. The actors – Tom Dixon, Paul Moss and Lucy Green – take on multiple roles, which is a feat in itself considering how hard the language must be to memorise. They then infuse each character with incredible comedy. Of particular fun are the scenes with the Friars, especially when Lucy or Paul is in charge of the Holy Water.

The physicality given to each character is strong, Tom’s Nurse especially (his grasp of physical theatre is a joy to watch). And the bicycles are still heavily present, with the swords and knives replaced with bicycle pumps in a fantastic parody of Baz Lurhmann’s famous guns, plus each actor wears a bicycle bell on their fingers, used to enhance character entrances or scene changes, and particularly effective for refocusing when one of them inevitably corpses. Like in panto, it is refreshingly enjoyable to see them break and laugh, endearing themselves even further to the audience. It is always great to see the actors having as much fun as the audience, and The Handlebards clearly are.

Romeo and Juliet is running for just a few more performances before the company start their tour of an all female retelling of Macbeth. Catching a show is highly recommended. You will leave smiling, entertained, and so very happy that theatre has survived the Apocalypse. Also humming “Night, oh gentle night.” Or possibly “Ninja friars!”

Tours until 30th May 2021

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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