Forget about elaborate costumes, stunning set pieces and the fantastical realm of the fairies. The HandleBards prove all that you need to stage a spectacular Shakesperean comedy is high-octane energy and utter playfulness.

The British theatre company’s interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, now on at the PJ Life Arts, Jaya One in Petaling Jaya, is a side-splitting experience fromstart to finish.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is presented by Gardner & Wife Theatre and will play until March 13.

This is the HandleBards’ first Malaysian visit. This bunch has travelled – by bicycle – the length and breadth of Britain, to perform Shakespeare’s plays. But the actors did not cycle all the way to this part of the world carrying props, costumes and all the other stage equipment (about 100kg).

Logistics did not permit the HandleBards a chance to brings its pedal power here. But it didn’t forget its theatrical charm and wit.

What is great about the HandleBards, comprising Matt Seager, Calum Hughes McIntosh and co-founders Callum Brodie and Tom Dixon, is its infectious spirit on stage. All of the members are in their mid 20s.

McIntosh (top) was completely brilliant with his over-the-top portrayal of Titania. Photo: IBRAHIM MOHTAR/ The Star

McIntosh (top) was completely brilliant with his over-the-top portrayal of Titania.

The HandleBards, formed in 2013 in Britain, finish off its whirlwind Asian tour in Kuala Lumpur this month. It visited places like Bangalore, India, Singapore and Myanmar in recent weeks.

All the group’s farce and fun on stage, no matter how ludicrous, really makes for good entertainment.

By no means is this a lack of respect to the Bard’s work. Far from it.

The HandleBards have the zest for all things Shakespeare. While remaining true to the text and the plot, the actors employ over-the-top antics and worked them to their advantage.

This writer was utterly amazed at how these four young men seamlessly slipped in and out of the 21 characters and still maintained the momentum of the show! The energy never dropped during this school night show on Monday.

In fact, it took a force of its own, so much so you will not find yourself reaching for your smartphone or wondering off between the lines.

Dixon (left) and Brodie play lovers Lysander and Hermia in the HandleBards staging of A Midsummer Nights Dream. The play is on at PJLA until March 13. Photo: IBRAHIM MOHTAR/ The Star

Dixon (left) and Brodie play lovers Lysander and Hermia.

As the stageside story goes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream centres around four lovers, Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander. Then there’s Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies. Confusion ensues after Oberon meddles with the Athenian lovers’ lives.

Each actor brings his own charm to the stage, wowing the audience with their larger-than-life personalities, lyrical voices and their utter love for Shakespeare.

McIntosh is most fun to watch as the fairy queen Titania.

Where one would expect a regal and more composed portrayal of Titania (think Cate Blanchett as Lady Galadriel in The Lord Of The Rings saga), McIntosh completely turns the role around, making Titania a showbiz diva.

Actually, the best and most solid parts of the show are in fact the fairies. Each of them, from Oberon to Puck, have their own set of movements. Yes, never a dull moment on stage. The movements are silly and exagerated, from Oberon’s grand ballet steps to Puck’s hilarious shimmy shakes. It’s also cute when the fairies talk to each other, and move about in goofy dance-like manner.

Ultimately, the HandleBard’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not for Shakespeare purists. But if you’re looking for a knee-slapper, something straight-up fun, this is the show for you.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on until March 13 at PJ Live Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya, and on March 11 at PenangPac, Penang. For tickets, call 03-7960 0439 or visit www.tix.my (PJ Life Arts) and call 04-899 1722 or visit www.ticketpro.com.my (PenangPac). For more info, visit www.gardnerandwife.com.