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.