Ride on with us through all the countryside,
With comedies and tragedies of old;
Four actors upon bikes are wont to ride,
To play the greatest stories ever told.
Shakespeare’s coming back to Penang on two wheels!
The HandleBards is a troupe of cycling actors who carry their set, props and costumes across the globe to deliver environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays. Described by none other than Sir Ian McKellen as “uproariously funny”, The HandleBards have pedalled for over 5,000 miles across the world since 2013, presenting Shakespeare’s plays as you’ve never seen them before – fast-paced, irreverent and bicycle-powered. This visit will be their fourth visit to Malaysia as ‘The Boys’ troupe previously performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing, and ‘The Girls’ were here last year to perform Romeo and Juliet.
The ‘Girls’, the all-female troupe was formed in 2016, and when they performed last year in Penang they had the audience screaming with laughter as the four of them played the 19 different characters involved in what is actually one of Shakespeare’s tragedies! Their energy and enthusiasm as they rush around the stage exchanging props to indicate different characters, and grabbing instruments as they sing, play and dance to accompany themselves, is both impressive and contagious.
This year they return to perform “As You Like It”, a hilarious tale of two lovers becoming entangled in a beguiling game of love, lust, cross-dressing, and mistaken identity, so it can only get funnier. Rosalind, the daughter of a banished duke, falls in love with Orlando at a wrestling match. Her usurping uncle, jealous of her popularity banishes her from court. Disguised as a boy, she leaves with her cousin Celia and the jester Touchstone, to seek out her father in the Forest of Arden. Here she meets Orlando again and, under the guise of a young man, Ganymede, counsels him in the art of love and wooing.
The Handlebards have been commended by critics and audiences worldwide for their brilliantly absurd, highly visual and very accessible style of Shakespeare, and even if you think you hate Shakespeare, or fear you won’t understand it, we recommend you give this a try. A review of their performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival described said “All four actresses were wonderful, delivering a vast range of absurd performances that often felt like Shakespeare via Blackadder and Monty Python. They also have a refreshing blend of affection and irreverence for Shakespeare’s text, with a prime example being Jaques’s famous ‘all the world’s a stage’ speech, which was delivered impeccably by Lotte Tickner and punctuated with ‘woahs’ from the two hippies onstage, at the supposed deepness of Jaques’s philosophic platitudes.” The 730 Review
In the UK, the Handelbards famously perform out-of-doors, come rain or shine. Audiences bring picnics but no umbrellas are allowed as they spoil the view for other people. It being a bit hotter here, the show will be in Komtar’s Auditorium A. “As You Like” It will be performed only twice, on Monday 29th January at 8.30pm and Tuesday 30th at 10am. Tickets are priced at RM 60 for economy, RM75 for premium and RM250 for a family of four, and are available via www.tix.my.