If you haven’t yet experienced the delights of outdoor theatre, these warm summer evenings provide the perfect opportunity to give it a try. For a highly original and wonderfully wacky experience the whole family will enjoy, look no further than The Handlebards – a cycling theatre company pedalling their set, costumes and props across the globe, performing Shakespeare in the open air.
The Handlebards embarked on their first ever tour as a foursome in 2013, when they cycled the 967 miles from Glasgow to London, acting out Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night at a range of outdoor venues. This was so well received that the troupe came together again the following year, this time including the Netherlands and Belgium in their tour, before expanding in 2016 to form two troupes (one all-male, another all-female). From May to early September, they each take a Shakespeare classic the length and breadth of the UK, performing at schools, castles, in gardens and at festivals. They've also clocked up miles in such far-flung places as India, Bali and Zimbabwe.
Carrying all the equipment to produce their shows on the back of four bicycles, and creating many of their props and costumes from recycled materials – the troupe pride themselves on being extremely environmentally-friendly, which in 2014 earned them the Edinburgh Fringe Sustainable Practice Award, which recognises shows that engage audiences with environmental responsibility and take steps to grow the arts in a sustainable world.
Their light load calls for clever set design, quick costume changes and cross-dressing, all devices used by the Bard himself, but without the inaccessibility some associate with Shakespeare productions. Indeed, The Handlebards stripped-back form of storytelling, injected with a healthy dose of side-splitting humour and boundless enthusiasm, will delight all ages and engage even the most passive of audiences.
“back to basics storytelling in the best way”
“Shakespeare, in our opinion, as it should be performed!”