The HandleBards: Secret Shakespeare

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A thoroughly satisfying jaunt through the Bard’s Scottish play, this is Shakespeare done right.

Image of The HandleBards: Secret Shakespeare
Photo: Callum Cheatle

@ Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, until Wed Aug 26 2015 @ 17:00

Not satisfied with having cycled over 1,500 miles to get to Edinburgh, The HandleBards clearly have  a bottomless supply of energy. What else would compel them to set out on another, secretive bike trip, only this time taking the audience along?

What sounds like an adventurous gimmick is, in reality, a lovely idea—one of those (good) things that could only happen at the Fringe. Rarely do you get to bond with your fellow audience members before a show, and there’s something invigorating about travelling as a pack of cyclists. The eventual location is superbly suited to the play in question (Macbeth)—a ruined, tree-ridden castle, which there is time to explore before the performance.

However, strip away all of this, and you are still left with a really excellent Shakespearian production. The HandleBards know when to play up comic elements: baked beans are used for blood, Banquo’s ghost swings round and round on a fishing line and there is excellent use of a bicycle light to represent that ‘damned spot’ that won’t wash out.

Nevertheless, for all this gorgeous silliness, they still manage to get under the psychological skin of the characters, and this is thanks to the consummate acting skill on display. Paul Moss gives an especially fine interpretation of Lady Macbeth, but really, there’s not a single man (and there are only four actors in a twenty-five character strong adaptation) who is anything less than magnificent. This is a show more than worth the aching muscles the next morning.