Friday, September 22

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Charterhouse

Having watched hundreds of productions, it’s hard to surprise me. But stepping into Charterhouse gardens, a small patch of green in the shadow of the Barbican towers, I found myself confused by the set up. In the corner, under some ancient trees, was a primitive looking stage reminiscent of a village fete.

In front of said stage were a collection of people joyously picnicking on camping chairs and mats. The atmosphere was peaceful, happy, relaxed and easy. It was hard to believe you were in central London amidst this little gathering chowing down on wine and home-made sandwiches. It was also hard to believe the production I was about to see was to be performed by The Handlebards – cycling actors who tour across the world presenting Shakespeare.

It was at that point I knew I was in for something different – and they did not disappoint. 

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has been done a gazillion times, but I have never seen a Shakespeare play and laughed so much. This is not one for the purists, but if you want chaotic comedy, this production is it. 

From the opening scene the influence of TikTok is writ large. Behavioural tics, choreographed moves, overly done facial expressions and full-on drama is what you get with this talented troupe. They easily intermingle Shakespeare with their own dialogue and present a showcase of characters with just four actors. Their creativity and talent are spellbinding and within moments I was enchanted by their incredible wit and imagination.

The story is complicated, so I’ll keep it short (and recommend you read the synopsis beforehand) but suffice to say it’s a love story involving magic potions – which has disastrous and farcical consequences.

The Handlebards rapid costume changes (often mid-stage) signalling the multi-character of each individual actor, only served to ramp up the fun and had the audience rolling with laughter. Alex Crook is an absolute comic genius who does well not to upstage the rest of the talent on stage – including the fantastically funny Jenny Smith. As a foursome, their chemistry is contagious and their passion for the production is obvious.

The director Nel Crouch said they had a blast making this show – and this is clear to see. What’s even better is the audience are having an even bigger blast watching it. This is the most fun I’ve had at a show for a long time. I loved every single moment and was sad when The Handlebards bade me farewell. If you want to feel joy – I suggest you grab yourself a seat.

Reviewer: Samantha Collett

Reviewed: 3rd June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.