Theatre Review: YOU’RE BARD – Sale Waterside Arts, Manchester

4 out of 5 stars

An unforgettable evening of Shakespeare unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, YOU’RE BARD is an expert masterclass in the art of improvisation.

As effervescent as a glass of Alka Seltzer, the cast of You’re Bard, gave Sale an expert masterclass in the use of improvisation throughout 90 minutes of hilarious comedy.

Take four actors and one compere, throw in audience participation in the form of Britney Spears and the themes come thick and fast, ricocheting like verbal ping pong. From the frankly bizarre “walk like crabs” to the hilarious “five year olds in a playground” not one genre was left untouched and the quickness of accent changes were bedazzling.

The cast members – Murray, Joe, Nate and Beth – are amazing in their ability to seamlessly move from prompt to prompt and deal with all obstacles – cream crackers and being slapped by a fish just two. The effect is surreal, a kind of Shakespearian free for all and it is only the whistle and pace of Rachel the compere that forces some sort of order out of the well honed chaos.

The audience participation is high with multiple prompts and changes in direction fired from those watching which in some cases lead to bemusement from the cast themselves, especially Murray.

The talent on show here is stunning – from accents to singing and even some “proper” drama thrown in there is no doubt that these actors are simply perfectly matched to showcase their improvisation skills and although they may be thrown by certain prompts of themes they are more than capable of picking up the baton and running amok with it, in various costumes and persona. The ability to think on their feet is breathtaking and their inventiveness extremely clever as they grapple with a variety of ideas and scenarios whilst attempting to continue with the meter of the titular play.

If there is one criticism and this is purely a personal viewpoint, I would would have liked to have seen some themes linger longer such as five year olds in a playground, Star Trek and Peaky Blinders but that is simply because they were so funny and the quick change manner of the show gave us glimpses of comedy gold which it would have been nicer to see more of.

In summary the interactive work was a quick fire roller coaster through one of the Bard’s works – given from a choice of four and picked at random – interspersed with references to his other works, pop culture and some completely off the wall random ideas. You could watch this repeatedly and never see the same show twice and that is a testament to the actors, the format and the audience.

YOU’RE BARD performed at Sale Waterside Arts, Manchester on 27 April 2024