"I will not be a common man because it is my right to be an uncommon man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony." Peter O'Toole

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Week 4/5: The weeks of illness, sheep poo and extreme ice cream

Week four began with a mixed bag of tidings: Callum Cheatle had fallen unwell and with a temperature was unable to cycle the 40 miles to our next stop. What was lucky was that our next venue, Rufford Old Hall near Ormskirk, was very near Paul’s family home. It was a fortuitous location for any cast member to have fallen unwell as 40 miles in a car only took an hour, which meant Callum could be picked up by Paul’s family and taken back to their house in Wigan.

Suddenly Tom and myself (Brodie), found we had a night to ourselves in Manchester and needed to place to stay. We also needed to find one quickly as all this had happened after the show at the Monastery and it was late at night. Sanctuary was found in one of my friends, Alice, who had come to see the show and had also brought me a belated birthday cake.


Her kindness extended past cake as she, without confirming with her parents, stated we “definitely would be able to stay at hers” (we love you Alice). Even though we would have 40 miles to cycle the next day, Tom, Alice, her friend James and I, all went out on Canal Street and danced the night away in a small bar serenaded by a man singing ‘Never Ending Story’ into a karaoke machine. We then returned back to Alice’s to watch Mulan. (It was one of those nights).

The next day, Tom and I packed up our bikes and confidently began our 40 mile cycle to be reunited with our fellow HandleBards in Ormskirk. Whilst Ormskirk was back in the direction we had already cycled from, we were in high spirits as we had a day off and by now 40 miles seemed child’s play. We made one mistake - we asked our phones which cycle route to take instead of planning the journey beforehand. Never do this! 

As the cycle progressed we felt we were passing through the seven circles of hell, as each so called ‘cycle route’ became more elaborate and obstacle course-esque than the one before.  After pushing our bikes up winding mud hills, areas that were no longer cycle routes but buildings sites, and overgrown thorn bushes, we came to a mile-long stretch of destroyed trees and wood chips that was impossible to cycle over. It was a visage that would remind one of the aftermath of war or an overly enthusiastic carpenter, and was so spongy in texture that our bikes sank into it whilst we attempted to peddle over it.


So our day off was not as relaxing as we had hoped. Google maps had taken us down paths we vowed we would never travel down again. The journey took us seven hours and destroyed Tom’s pack-rack, which had bent and pressed down on his back tyre slowing our progress. 

This bad day was replaced with joy, as excitement overcame us when we cycled to Rufford Old Hall for Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet.


We would perform in the room that they were 99.9% sure Shakespeare himself had performed in. Surrounded by suits of armour, swords and old chests, we performed to two full houses and received standing ovations. We would also like to note that we managed, even though it was a very tight space to perform in, not to smash any of the windows with the plates we threw like frisbees. Phew.

Week 5 came and the HandleBards had to face two potential terrors: 

1. The travel over the Peak District for our performances in Sheffield.

2. The notes that James, our director, would give of the shows. He was coming to Sheffield to see our performances.

First terror first: the journey to and over the Peak District. 

It began with us heading, once again, to Manchester. I am proud because this only took us two hours and it was a 30-mile journey where I had to pull the trailer. As we had learnt our lesson from the trip before, we took the A roads - but I was still happy to let Tom pull it the rest of the way to our campsite in the Peak District. It’s amazing that one day a bike can take a person from a historical site, through an urbanised city and then into a rural campsite were we would sleep next to the pet llamas and star gaze whilst drinking fosters in a field surrounded by sheep poo. Oh the glamorous life.


Up at the crack of dawn, we pushed our bodies across the rest of the Peak District to arrive in Sheffield. I would love to write tales of hail, wild boars and a lack of oxygen due to the altitude. However, that would be a lie - it was an incredibly uneventful yet strenuous journey where a lot of cycling happened and a lot of grass passed us by. Once in Sheffield, Tom and Callum went on some well deserved whisky and ale tasting. 

Terror number two: James’s notes. 

James met us at our first Sheffield venue, Recycle Bikes, for a free show of Twelfth Night.  Paul, who runs Recycle Bikes, greeted us and introduced us to Jackalopes Tale, our folk music band for the night, who would later get our audience smiling. A wonderful community of cyclers made up our audience of 60+ people, one of which was Giles who sold ‘extreme ice cream’ from the back of his bike - a genius idea.

Paul Moss has a theory that some Shakespearian god is on our side as every potential rainy show turns to sun just before the performance begins. And this show was no exception. The clouds disappeared and the sun shone down, highlighting our director taking ominous notes at the back of the audience as we performed. The show ended. We packed up and James had nothing but a smile on his face, which was a massive relief for all the HandleBards. 


With this filling us with joy, we got a good nights sleep (after watching Good Will Hunting - for the first time ever would you believe) and set out to the council’s amphitheatre behind Sheffield train station. We had a huge audience spurred on by word of mouth from the night before. Giles was back again with his ice cream bike (we wanted to employ him) and we recorded our set up and performance for this stock motion film. If you are from Sheffield and are performers we strongly advise contacting the council about using this space as it beautifully looks over the city and is not utilised enough.


Filed under theatre shakespeare peculius handlebards tour Twelfth Night romeo and juliet actors cycling bike bicycle

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Week 3: The Week Of The Birthday Castle, The Knighted Steak and The Brass Band.

As some of you may have noticed the HandleBards have a stock photo of us in our costumes in the same position in front of each venue. As everyone will know, week three was a week of scorching sunshine. In Durham we combined these two features as we left Crook Hall with a photo of us in just our underwear and socks (we made it sexy). We managed to do this by deftly dodging the paying public wandering around the grounds, whilst at the same time grabbing an employee and getting her to take said photo. In hindsight this may have been a little more frightening to her than we anticipated, so if she reads this, thank you and sorry.


On Tuesday we travelled to the Bowes Museum, a beautiful structure originally created to rival the V&A in London for a free show of Twelfth Night. Once again we were blown away with the reception we received during the show, and generosity from the audience members who came to talk to us after. As the Bowes Museum had a public park we managed to camp by the venue, and for the first time ever on the tour, four grown mature and sophisticated men, (us) feared for our lives as unknown dog walkers, joggers, and the occasional drunk ambled past our tents in the dead of night. For one night, we felt we had camped in a very budget thriller movie, as the mundane became potential fearful events whilst the night drew in. Myself (Brodie) was even woken by my name being repeated in urgent whispers by my other three cast members in their PJ’s after they suddenly developed the urge to defend our bikes by moving their location under the cover of darkness, and needed my help.


We woke up on Wednesday, alive and with all of our limbs (possibly because Tom had slept with the tent mallet by his side in case of potential intruders) and set off for Bolton Castle.

Our journey to Bolton Castle was our greatest challenge yet. Whilst only 25 miles we had to brave the Yorkshire Dales in the heat of the day on bikes not suited for the terrain. Our bikes are the wonderful hybrid Specialised series, which are light and fast paced. However, mountain bikes would have been preferable for this journey. For me, this was an incredibly uncomfortable trip, which felt very dangerous. The ground underfoot was dusty and covered in rocks and potholes, if you didn’t peddle at quite a fast speed the bike would skid and fall. Even then, if you peddled too fast and turned sharply - the bike would skid and fall. I was just grateful I wasn’t the one pulling the 55-kilo trailer on the continuous incline that was the town of Reeth. The scenery however, was stunning.


As we were used by this point to cycling journeys of 40 miles followed by a show we were confident this one would not take long. We were wrong. After five hours we reached Bolton castle, much of our speed was hindered by the fact we had to cycle ahead of the trailer, dismount, run back, and help whoever was carrying the trailer at that point by pushing it up the hill. It was 3pm and absolutely baking when we met Katie the venue manager, who took one look at our sweaty appearances, took pity on us and lead us to the canteen for a cold drink.

Katie was absolutely wonderful, giving us half an hour to compose ourselves before showing us around the castle, which included the bedroom of Mary Queen of Scots. The area in which we would be performing in turned out to be the castle’s courtyard surrounded by its semi preserved walls, battlements and a working portcullis which was lowered as we set up.


After the heavy day’s cycling we were grateful we would not have to strain our voices to be heard in the space, and the atmospheric surrounding which was intriguing in itself added wonderfully to the show, which had a great turn out. At the end of each show Paul Moss talks to the audience to let them know a little more about us. After announcing the fact that we had gallantly managed to cycle to Bolton via Reeth, an older man in the crowd laughed and later told us that that journey was nothing and he did similar everyday. I must admit that on hearing these words I was impressed that the entire cast remained smiling, and no-one broke down in tears.

Tom, the son of the Lord of Bolton Castle, told us that instead of camping in the castle’s grounds, we were welcome to stay in the castle. On our own. The whole of Bolton Castle, with lowered portcullis and wood fire, would for one night be the HandleBards’ castle. We wished we had our own flag to fly from the battlements.

I (Brodie) was turning 24 when the clock struck midnight, and with the chocolate cake my family had sent to the venue in advance, cider audience members had given to us, and our costumes donned, we headed to the roof to overlook the Dales.


This was probably one of the most memorable starts to a birthday I have ever had and I would personally like to thank Tom and Katie for making this possible.

The next day we cycled 50 miles through the Dales on our way to Hoghton Tower. We fuelled ourselves by stopping at a tearoom in Aysgarth Falls, where we ate all the food, which helped us do the trip in 7 hours.

A special shout out must be made to Tom Dixon who managed to cycle up a killer hill, which ran for half a mile at a 16% incline, whilst pulling the trailer. He did all this without stopping and managed to keep his top on.


We arrived at Hoghton Tower near Preston to perform both Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. Here we met the Brothers of Swing who would join us in performing Twelfth Night. These cheeky chappies were brilliant at charming an audience, and transformed the scenes we incorporated them into, adding to the comedy of the whole situation. The famous Orsino speech ‘If music be the food of love…’ was accompanied by an a cappella version of ‘Come Fly With Me’ by Frank Sinatra. They nonchalantly strutted through the audience, until the words ‘Enough no more, tis not as sweet now as it was before…’ halted them in their tracks and with muttered words of outrage they reluctantly sat down with the chuckling audience.



Helena and Tom, the daughter and son of Sir Bernard of Hoghton Tower then gave us a tour of the grounds and house. The architecture and design inside the buildings was exquisite, and the history of the house rich. Hoghton Tower was where King James I is said to have knighted a particularly tasty loin of beef during a meal in 1617. This is now why we call it ‘Sirloin Steak’.  

The next day, the 21st of July, the HandleBards assembled and began their journey to the Monastery in Manchester for a performance of Romeo and Juliet in one of our first indoor venues since Glasgow. The 40 mile journey went smoothly and we met the 25-piece ‘Eagley Brass Band’ who would be performing with us.


A very professional image in matching uniform, the band played with expert skill, which reverberated off the walls of the monastery beautifully. Though the actors had to lower their volume whilst performing due to the echoey nature of the acoustics, the band seemed to overpower even physics, as ever note played could be heard perfectly as the sheer power of 25 instruments sung out.

This was an incredible week for the HandleBards. In one week we had survived the Dales, owned a castle for a night, been in the room where James I had knighted some beef, and now were being accompanied by a 25 piece brass band in a monastery. Surreal and wonderful and full of hard work we look to week four.

Filed under handlebards peculius Twelfth Night romeo and juliet shakespeare tour cycling bike bicycle theatre

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Crossing The Border!

We’re a quarter of the way through our tour, hurray! We’ve had some beautiful rides and had very positive feedback and couldn’t be more chuffed with how it’s all going; thank you to everyone who has supported us so far!

So to pick up exactly where we left off, we performed at Bowhill house with beautiful sweeping fields as our backdrop and with some lovely Balkan folk music curtesy of The Beggar Girls. We ask local musicians to perform with us at each of our shows, they perform just before the show and during the interval to create a lovely and relaxing atmosphere for our picnickers (is that a word?). What makes it so exciting is that we also ask the musicians to perform at certain points in each of the shows (the masquerade ball in Romeo and Juliet, and 'If music be the food of love' in Twelfth Night being two examples). As we have different musicians and different styles of music at each venue it make each show completely unique!

(A short digression…) Whilst on this tour we have been met by nothing but niceness along the way, random acts of kindness that have helped get us through the long days. At the head of this is the caretaker of Bowhill house, Calum. Calum has worked (and lived) at the museum for over 20 years, he has 3 dogs a wife and 2 children; he is the most selfless and caring person I have ever met. Making us feel so at home during our stay, he helped us from the moment we got there; handing out flyers, setting up a barbeque and giving us burgers, beers, fruit and donuts after the show, helping plan our next our route, bringing us coffee and toast for breakfast and giving me a pair of his cycling sunglasses because mine had broke! As we kept thanking him for all the lovely stuff he was doing for us, he made a point of saying that helping people and making others happy is just something at we should all try to do. Calum, we want you to know that your thoughtfulness and generosity was truly inspirational and we hope we have the chance to meet you again!


Our next ride was from Selkirk to Etal which was to be 40 miles straight into a show… It was a big one and at 8.30am as we prepared to leave Selkirk spirits where high, then 5 minutes into the journey at the top of our first hill we were hit by our first puncture! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had broken hangers, sheared dérailleurs, snapped wheel spokes and ripped tyres but this was our first puncture. We replaced it and with a few sound words of advice from a passing cycle club we were on our way again (unfortunately we can’t pass on their advice to you, cyclists’ honour and all that)

Later that day Tillyvally (our trailer of doom) got her first puncture, this was a lot more difficult to fix, but due to the beautiful weather and a prior musical sing-a-long session (including hits from Les Mis, West Side Story and Matilda) nothing could get us down, so we fixed her and carried on! Due to the heat of the midday sun we stopped for lunch in the lovely Kelso, replaced Tillyvally’s inner tube (puncture number 3) and bumped into a lovely lady who told us she was seeing us tonight in Etal (we felt like celebrities) she the popped back 5 minutes later to say:

"Just thought I’d let you know that if you see me rushing off half way through the show, it’s not you, but my sons just called me and I’m going to be a grandma very soon! He thinks I should come to the hospital straight away, I don’t think he quite understands how long its going to take! Besides I’m taking a party of 7 people to your show and I’m bringing the picnic table!!"

She managed to see the whole show and the birth still hadn’t happened, just goes to show how good Mums’ foresight is. We all hope your grand child is happy healthy and cute!

Arriving at Etal Manor at 5pm for our first charity-led show we met Lady Joicey and Hospice Care Northumberland and set up the stage immediately! Our biggest show yet, we performed Twelfth Night to 300 people (including the local butcher, most of Etal and about 30 French school children, who took quite a shining to us) with music provided by Antic Hay, we helped raise loads of money for Hospice Care Northumberland (exact figures will be released at a later date) in what proved to be a sunny and jovial evening!

At the end of the show we sometimes ask our audiences for any leftovers from their picnics as we can usually find a time to polish them off! Little did we realise how much food we would recieve this time - olives, cheeses, pork pies, dips and 4 jars of £3.80 pâté! We also got invited over to a huge picnic table by a lovely party of people who filled us up with more food and drink including a cheese board and banana chocolate cake (my favourite). We were also invited to the local cafe ‘the lavender tea rooms’ for a free breakfast AND later that evening we had a tasty supper with Lord and Lady Joicey and Richard Joicey (needless to say we were the most full we have ever been and had enough food to last us the whole of the next day!)


The next morning, after a lovely free breakfast at the lavender tea rooms we were on our way to meet Keith from the Wooler Wheels Bike Club who had planned our route for the day! 5 minutes in (as seems to be the recurring theme) Tilly got her 3rd (and our grand total 4th) puncture. Myself and Paul stayed to fix her (and to find a way of creating a more stable support for holding the wheels on as they were currently being held by a piece of thin rusty metal). The Callums carried on with Keith and had burgers and beers at the half way mark whilst Paul and Tom selflessly braved the hills with the monster of a weight that is Tillyvally.

Once reunited we continued through Alnwick (where we said goodbye to Keith) and on to Warkworth where the bike club had sourced us a campsite, we arrived rather confused at a caravan park, whose owner pointed out they don’t usually have tents but kindly let us use the field to pitch up for but a small donation to the air ambulance charity. Confused as to why the Wooler Wheels would have sent us to a campsite that didn’t take tents, we pitched up, and ate dinner (leftover picnic), it was only when we looked over the map and the name of the campsite did we realise that we were in the wrong place and the right campsite was approximately 200 yards away on the other side of the river. We laughed very hard… Not sure whether it was from hilarity of the situation, exhaustion, despair, insanity or all of them! The next morning two lovely ladies from the campsite gave us a cup of coffee to see us on our way and told us the best route to Morpeth and so we continued on our adventure!

About 5 miles in disaster struck, Tillyvally hit a bump in the road and went soaring on her side dragging Callum Cheatle’s bike with it and destroying his back wheel. He continued riding for another 5 miles but in the end had to get a taxi to pick him up and take him to Morpeth where he had to have his whole back wheel replaced. The rest of us carried on and carefully pulled the monster that is Tillyvally.

20 miles and we had reached the stunning Whalton manor very early, we had an interview with BBC Radio Newcastle, and after that we had time to relax and clean our clothes and costumes, thanks to Penny (the HandleBards whiff was finally removed from our clothes… for now). That evening we had a lovely show and some great food with Penny and Tim and they very kindly let us use their huge bath which was AMAZING (the HandleBards whiff was finally removed from ourselves… for now)! Full of food and wine, feeling clean and warm and with fresh clothes we went to bed feeling refreshed and restored!

Friday morning we took our time to pack up, said goodbye to Penny, Tim, Jenny (and Macbeth the horse) and continued for what should have been a short and easy 17 miles to Newcastle! Then in one final blow out Tillyvally did her best to ruin the day; with 3 miles to go we heard an almighty bang that sounded like a gunshot and Tilly came to an immediate stop. This time her treads had completely worn out and there was a huge gaping hole in her tyre, some handy work helped take us another two miles but then the shot was heard again. Tilly had rolled her last leg of our journey. Thanks to fantastic help from the cycle hub, she was taken by car for the last mile of the journey whilst we continued cycling without her.


The Cycle Hub staff were amazing, over Friday and Saturday they let us use the space to do admin and costume and generally just slob out and get in the way. They gave us free coffee and gave us all a bike maintenance check for free, meaning those loose brakes and jolting gears all but disappeared! We also took time to wander around Ouseburn, which you should definitely do if you’re ever in Newcastle, its a lovely place! Despite threatening clouds on the dull thud of bass echoing from The Tyne Bar, Saturday evenings’ performance outside the Cycle Hub was really successful with the Gladstone Trio providing some fantastic music (our highlight being when we got to perform the masquerade ball to Blondie’s Call Me being performed on a £10,000 Cello).


Sunday morning we managed to source a new trailer! With bigger wheels, more structural support and less rust, she’s a beauty, and we’ve named her Penthesilea. A cool 16 miles down the road got us to Durham, Crook Hall, as we didn’t have any musicians for the show yet, we asked 2 buskers that we saw on the street, Hey! Market, who turned out to be a massive hit with the audience. After a very successful Twelfth Night we went back to the home of our friend Seif, who provided warm beds, a (much needed) shower and a huge meal of pasta and salad (cooked by his amazing mum, who was visiting from Egypt.)

We were going to try to keep these updates short, but it seems we just have too much to tell you about! Anyway, until the next free WiFi connection, farewell dear hearts since I must needs be gone & on lusty gentlemen!

The HandleBards

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Week One Round-up

So here we are, sat in the beautiful Bowhill House, ready to perform our 10th show of the tour. It’s been a busy week, so we apologise for not letting you know what we’ve been up to before now! Hopefully this blog will serve to remedy that…

We began our performances last Tuesday, at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. After two full days of rehearsal at the venue, the shows were ready (just about!), but the weather was grey and drizzly, forcing us indoors for our first R&J. Most of the people we met in Glasgow greeted us with the remark ‘Well it’s Glasgow…what did you expect?’. The shows went down very well, and we had some lovely audiences, including two young babies who kindly napped all the way through one of our shows, much to the delight of their mum. On Tuesday, straight after our first show, Callum and Paul cycled directly from the venue to the BBC Scotland building - a five minute ride which was not so pleasant in the sheeting rain - to make it to an interview on the Culture Studio programme (you can check us out here -, making it back to the museum with 20 minutes to go before the afternoon show. We had a great time at the Riverside Museum and in the lovely city of Glasgow, and prepared ourselves on Wednesday night for our first ride - from Glasgow to Falkirk along the Forth and Clyde Canal.

And what a ride it was… The morning began with heavy rain, but that was fine - it was our first ride and we were all quite excited. The route promised to be a flat and smooth journey, and for quite some time was quite friendly to us. On the first leg of the route we formulated a few phrases which we’d use as a geeky sort of code. It’s silly, but it works, and if you’ve seen our plays then the references will make more sense to you…

On, Lusty Gentlemen - Let’s go!

Gallop Apace - Let’s go quicker!

Are We All Met? - …self explanatory (and also not from one of our plays…actually from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Pat Pat - Yes, we are all here (also from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

We also named our trailer ‘Tillyvally’ (a 12N reference), and little did we know how much of a battleaxe she would turn out to be…

Around halfway down our route, with the sun peeping through the clouds and the sun cream being optimistically applied, Tillyvally began her reign of terror. Tom was happily pulling her along, when a few puddles came up ahead. We each sail across them with a small bump, until Tom passes over them with a slightly larger bump, and a shout to stop. The clamp (which we had been so pleased about having acquired in our last post) had twisted and hit the spokes of his back wheel, breaking some of the spokes, stalling the wheel and shearing the derailer, leaving his bike in tatters. There’s a video which we’ll post on here very soon, showing just how we all felt. Needless to say that sometimes pathetic fallacy is more than just a literary device, as at that point the heavens opened and the promise of sunshine was wiped out.

James, jumping into action, offered Tom his bike so that the Bards could carry on the ride and get to the Falkirk Wheel in time for the 2:30pm show, and picked up Tom’s bike and carried it back to the last town we had passed, where he had noticed there was a bike shop. As we continued our ride a little worse for wear, the clamp catastrophe happened again, this time to Paul’s bike, albeit to a lesser degree so that he could still cycle and get to the Wheel.

We arrived at the Wheel in good time for the show, with bikes battered and bruised but with Bards in high spirits, and immediately ran to the cafe for some food (a haggis-filled jacket potato for each of us!). James arrived around an hour later with a temporarily-fixed bike for Tom, and the shows went ahead in front of the spectacular Falkirk Wheel, which has got to be one of the strangest and most impressive feats of engineering we’ve seen so far on the tour. It’s basically a boat lift, which raises boats between the Forth and Clyde Canal (Glasgow - Falkirk) and the Union Canal (Falkirk - Edinburgh), but operates by turning 180 degrees to do so. It’s all very interesting. The shows were well received, and while we were performing the Dawson Bike Club - a volunteer-run cycle shop in Falkirk - fixed our bikes ready for the cycle on Friday morning. We can’t believe how incredibly helpful they were, and we couldn’t have got through the week so far without their help, along with the support of the Helix (particularly Ben Williams, who organised the show for us) and the Falkirk Wheel.

Friday morning came and we set off on our newly-fixed bikes for a ride along the Union Canal towards Lauriston Castle in Edinburgh. The day started off very grey, but as the morning went on the sun came out and hasn’t stopped shining since. This made for a lovely ride - some amazing things along the route such as a kilometre-long rough stone tunnel hewn through the side of the hill which we had to walk our bikes through, and some beautiful views. We had a lovely ride through the Dalmeny Estate in Edinburgh after a road diversion sent us that way - little did we know that it was completely off our route and in fact caused a 10-mile detour in our day. Some unhappy Bards (and a very unhappy James, suffering from a backside injury he’d gained after a small crash the day before when cycling Tom’s bike back to Falkirk sans-back brakes). However, we made it to the venue just in time for the show and performed Twelfth Night to a very receptive audience, before seeking out food in the form of a King-Size Carvery at a Toby Carvery, drink in the local Sam Smith’s pub (The Cramond Inn, which looks out over the water and is very nice and cheap) and watching the sun set over the Forth in the evening. 

James left the Bards early on Saturday morning (I think I phrased that wrong - does ‘left the Bards’ make it sound like he died after the crash he’d suffered two days before?) to head back to London, and the Bards quietly mourned the loss of their director and surrogate mother for the week (‘quietly mourned’ definitely sounds like he died…suffice to say, he’s alive and well, but is sadly missed by the four of us). Two shows followed that day in the glorious sunshine, and the midges descended at the end of the second show to painful and itchy effect the next morning. Don’t worry, we have placed an order of Avon Skin So Soft (which we have been assured by every Scotsman we have met is the ONLY thing that will keep away the flies) with Paul’s mum, and will be begging, borrowing and stealing a supply for the next couple of weeks until it arrives. Aside from the multiple insect bites, Lauriston Castle treated us very well and we had a fantastic time there, and we’d like to thank Mike Durnan, the steward of the Castle, for all his help and hospitality during our time there.

Sunday was our first day off of the tour, but still consisted of a 28-mile cycle (…does that count as a day off?). We headed from Lauriston Castle to Roslin (where the Rosslyn Chapel is - the one that’s at the end of the Da Vinci Code film/book), but decided to spend the £9 per person entry fee in the pub rather than see the chapel, keeping up with the Wimbledon score while we relaxed in the beer garden. Whilst there we met up with Ben from the Helix in Falkirk, who very kindly delivered our repaired wheels which the Dawson Bike Club had fixed for us (they’d left us with some spares for the ride from Falkirk). We set off and continued our journey, heading to Peebles for the evening, and happened to pass by Ben’s house. He popped out to say hello, and as he did so, Murray won the first British Men’s Wimbledon title for 77 years. We’re sorry we made you miss it Ben, but the news carried us on through a gorgeous cycle through the Scottish Borders to Peebles. For any cyclists reading this, we highly recommend the Scots Borders area for cycling - there’s some amazing routes around here.

We arrived at the campsite around 7, had a barbecue and slept after a long week. A morning cycle (another fantastic one from Peebles to Selkirk) got us to Bowhill by 1pm, and so we thought we’d use this time before the show to let you know what we’ve been up to! We’d like to thank anyone who’s seen the shows already for coming along - thanks for chatting to us after the shows and sending us messages to let us know what you thought  - we love meeting and hearing from all of you! Get in touch if you’d like to tell us more - either leave us a comment on our Facebook and Twitter, or send us an email at

A busy week ahead now, but let’s hope the sun stays out! We’ll send more updates soon…

The HandleBards

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Day 1 - Getting Under Way!

The final week of rehearsals in London was wonderful as it really gave us a chance to cement all the work we’d been doing and go into minute detail.  We also had the final props and costumes, which looked great. Libby Todd, our designer, had really captured the spirit of the production with the vintage/reclaimed look we were going for - thank goodness for the charity shops of West London to sort us out! 

Unfortunately the reclaimed policy also led to our first, and hopefully only, disaster. The bike-pulled trailer which will be used to carry the props and costume was bought second-hand and had seen many better days. Libby tarted it up somewhat, but once we loaded it with everything, the inevitable happened and the clamp connecting it to the bike snapped, five minutes into the cycle from Battersea (where we were rehearsing) to Shoreditch (where Callum lives)

We managed to find a replacement clamp but it wouldn’t reach us on time so it would have to be delivered to Glasgow. Using one of Callum’s shoe laces, some LX tape and a bit of sponge, we cobbled together a “clamp” of sorts that Blue Peter would have been proud of! Amazingly, this managed to get us from Shoreditch to Euston to Glasgow to the Riverside Museum, where we wait with baited breath for the replacement clamp before we set off for Falkirk on Thursday.

Our first full day rehearsing in Glasgow was brilliant, if not very, very, very wet while it sounds like the rest of the country basked in glorious sunshine.  But I think everyone really benefitted from being in an actual venue and finding out if all the ideas (and dreams) we’ve had will actually work. Sunday was Twelfth Night all day (which is looking great) and today has been Romeo & Juliet (which after 15 hours of rehearsal is in great shape), plus we met the first of the bands who’ll be supporting us en route.

It’s been a hectic and tiring first three days, but despite dodgy equipment and inclement weather we’ve made a really positive start.  If the shows continue to grow on tour as much as they have over the last few days the country is in for an absolute treat!

James Farrell

Filed under HandleBards Peculius Theatre Shakespeare Twelfth Night Romeo and Juliet Glasgow Tour

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Picnic bike. I’m not making any promises, but if anyone can bring one of these to one of our shows, free tickets may be in order…

Picnic bike. I’m not making any promises, but if anyone can bring one of these to one of our shows, free tickets may be in order…

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HandleBards Workshop: OFF THE CHAIN!

I spent far too long thinking of a pun to put in the title. Needless to say, I don’t think it paid off. The gauntlet has been thrown down for any HandleBard to beat my sorry excuse for a bike-related pun. I’m sure it’ll be an easy competition.

So after months of admin, the HandleBards has finally begun! Good Friday saw our first day of workshops take place at the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, and for five days we worked with three different directors with a view to solving all of the problems we set ourselves by taking on such a crazy project.

First up was Victor Correia, a lovely Canadian director who moved to London recently. Tackling the texts as a group for the first time, we considered characterisation, how to be a lady, and just how much stuff we’ll be carrying with us on our bikes.

And just as an aside, if we hadn’t told you already, we’ll be carrying EVERYTHING on our bikes. Set, props, costumes, clothes, tents, sleeping bags, first aid kits, puncture kits…everything. Needless to say we’ll be knackered after the 926 mile route comes to an end…

On Sunday we worked with Vik Sivalingam, a very busy man and ex- resident director at the RSC. A very rigorous approach to the text, picking up on every word and mote of punctuation, had us really thinking about what Shakespeare says about hia characters and themes through his writing alone.

It also made us realise, in the words of Kiss Me Kate, that we need to brush up our Shakespeare!

Last up was James Farrell, who recently directed Twelfth Night at the Royal and Derngate in Northampton, and is also assistant director on the 39 Steps in the West End. Amongst a host of other questions we looked at how we can make music using the bikes, and how we can actually make the show happen with only four people - which, rest assured, we can do. Just about.

After a hectic easter weekend, we’ve appointed James as the director pf our shows, and we’re very pleased to welcome him aboard! Things are going to go back to emails and phonecalls over the next two months, with Tom continuing his job in Sheffield, Callum tutoring almost full time, and myself heading off to Dublin to work on the IDGTF out there until the end of May. But keep your eyes peeled for photos from last week, news about casting, sneak peeks at our publicity, and most importantly - TOUR DATES! They’ll be up on our website at the end of this week.

Exciting, eh!

Follow us on Twitter (@peculius), like us on Facebook and check out our website ( for all the news. And if you have any burning questions, send us a message! We love messages. And creme eggs.

I’m hoping that our boyband-like image will prompt hordes pf screaming fangirls (and boys) to send industrial amounts of creme eggs to us. We can all dream…

Signing off for now and about to go Dublin-bound!


Filed under handlebards