Best not go and see the Handlebards. Not if you’re hungry, anyway. Here is a theatre troupe who will drink your beer and steal your strawberries all in the name of art.
But our date with the Handlebards has been in the diary since February. Ever since I saw this witty and inventive lot at Bolton Castle last year I’ve been on their mailing list. Last year I saw the female troupe. This year we went to see the men at work. William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Sixteen characters. Four actors. No problem. Men can multi-task too.
And multi-task they did. The Queen’s English, broad Scots, Northern accents all had their places. Hats, jackets and gilets all stood in for the characters who wore them, but who were temporarily detained in another role. Balloons barely concealed behind an voluminous white pinny lent girth and a (sort of) female form to Maria, while sporting a little number in prettily sprigged voile enabled us to understand that the (bearded) Olivia was now on stage.
Occasionally audience members were pressed into service. The cast took any opportunity to help themselves to crisps, wine and cake, legitimising the thefts by working them into the action on stage. Nobody thus deprived of their picnic minded at all. Picnic? Yes, it was a lovely summer’s evening. We’d all spread ourselves over the lawn of the Ripon Workhouse Museum, armed with blankets, garden chairs and baskets of treats. Gruel was not on the menu.
It was all a bit exhausting, even for the delighted audience. How the troupe summon up the energy to cycle off to a new venue day after day is beyond me. But that’s what they do, up and down the length of the kingdom throughout the summer season. ‘Have bike, will perform’ must be their motto. Here’s what they say:
Since 2013, the HandleBards have clocked-up over 7000 miles by cycling around the world to perform Shakespeare. Described by none other than Sir Ian McKellen as ‘uproariously funny’, we set the world on wheels with our unique brand of extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic, environmentally friendly cycle-powered theatre.
We love an adventure.
You really should go and see them after all. And take a picnic. A picnic big enough to share.
Tuesday’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Play’. I went to the play. Here’s what I saw.