The HandleBards: Richard III
An entertainingly OTT performance from the bike-based Shakespeare troupe
The gimmick behind The HandleBards, if you're not already familiar with the group, is this: the whole company tours the UK exclusively by bicycle, carrying all of their props, sets and costumes with them. Half the pleasure in a HandleBards performance is seeing just how many corners they've ingeniously cut to make the journey possible: there's bike pump weaponry for duelling and jousting, while each of the cast wears a bell as a ring – useful both as extravagant prop jewellery and as an audio cue whenever one of them switches characters.
This is an especially handy trick for Shakespeare's Richard III, which contains a 41-strong character list to be shared among the four actors. Liam Mansfield takes on the lead role of the scheming and villainous Richard, who plots and murders his way to the throne. It's a full-on, maniacally laughing panto performance, mostly entertaining and only occasionally grating (his butt-shaking melodica solos go on way too long). Elsewhere in the cast, Paul Hilliar does great work as the deadpan Catesby and Brummie-accented Lady Anne, while Stanton Plummer-Cambridge goes full ham as Richmond, Tyrrel and Queen Elizabeth. It's probably not Richard III as Shakespeare intended, but it's great fun nonetheless.
Assembly George Square Theatre, run ended.