Peculius

"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 Three (Part One): “Music do I hear?” Richard II

Week three… the hectic week!

Brodie Bard (myself) was carrying our trailer, Old Adam, towards Cottesbrooke via a cycle path that ran parallel to an old train line. Suddenly I heard a clinking sound. My pedals locked, and as Old Adam pushed forwards into my bike, it shunted sideways, skidded a few meters, and I was thrown from to the ground.

This managed to happen in a matter of seconds, and all in front of the only person we had seen for miles; an elderly gentlemen who was painting a disused train.

He paused for effect before he murmered ”Well that was a tad dramatic. Wasn’t it.”

Smiling (whilst internally being amazed that the worst thing to have come out of my mouth during the incident was “Oh bugger!”), I turned to the man who was grinning in a way that I would regard as none-too-friendly, and replied: “Yes, if I am going to fall, I’m going to make a song and dance of it.” Sometimes, I am just too politely British, and can’t switch off the performer.

The area indicated here is where the bike and the trailer attach. We had put so much weight on Old Adam that the attachment had simply bent, and the nut and bolt had unscrewed. This meant that the trailer had come unattached from my bike, and, as we were going downhill, had picked up more speed than the bike. The arm of the trailer had then planted itself into my back wheel, locking the wheel and my pedals - causing the ‘semi-dramatic’ crash to occur.

As I mentioned in our first blog, we really are doing this whole tour under our own steam. We have no back up vehicle and currently cannot be sure whether we will get to all of our venues and shows on time.

Here, we had a few hours to get to Cottesbrooke and still many many miles to cover…

Moss Bard, being the genius he is, dived into our ‘Man Bag’ (full of nuts, bolts, screws and the odd spanner) and managed to create a makeshift attachment from these nuts, bolts, and some of the bits of metal we use to set up the tents we use in our plays. We have now renamed Paul. He is now ‘Mr T’.

Having to stop every five miles or so to make sure the problem does not occur again, whilst also traveling over ground so bumpy that it puts the traveler in mind of when they went through acne, we very slowly reached our venue with an hour before the show to set up. Phew. 

Cottesbrooke was well worth the hellish journey. A beautiful venue with stunning views, it had a lovely community atmosphere, with ticket sales going to help repair the local church.

We were also joined by the wonderful Malc Evans, who would go on to play with us at four of our performances. He was wonderful, and had a real talent at engaging with the audience and getting them into the perfect ‘HandleBard’ mindset for the show. 

My personal favourite was his rendition of ‘I’m the King of the Swingers’, where he wondered around the audience and managed to get many of them to do their best ape impressions along with the music. Epic.

Another wonderful thing about this show, the cherry on top as it were, was that our merchandise had finally arrived! Needless to say, we felt like a budget (or better?) One Direction, as we proudly and excitedly presented the bags and badges that we now sell at each performance.

Please don’t hesitate to come up to us after the show and spread Bard love by purchasing and displaying our new merchandise on your person. Just look how good Tom looks:

Callum Brodie x

Filed under handlebards theatre macbeth The Comedy of Errors cycling bicycle tour

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Week Two (Part Three): ‘‘We know what we are, but know not what we may be.’’ Hamlet

We woke up to our humble bedroom of the night before, Elstow Abbey:

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A standard way to start the day, I am sure you will agree…

Having the day to ourselves and being around 350 miles through our 2000 mile tour, it seemed sensible to take a moment to give our bicycles some much needed tender loving care.  

Our bikes are Eastway ST1’s, but Cheatle Bard calls his ‘Tiffany’ (finally, we have some female company!).

We absolutely love our Eastways. They are lovely to look at, very light weight, come equipped with high quality parts, and, very importantly for us, are incredibly strong. They have no trouble pulling very heavy trailers behind them on a daily basis, AND, to date, we’ve not had a single puncture on them.

They were sourced for us by our fantastic merchandise sponsor LUV Handles, The Bike Boutiquealong with a whole range of wonderful cycling related goodies:

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As the HandleBards are incapable of functioning as separate entities, we set up a production line sort of thing for our bike maintence, with each Bard focusing on specific bike parts to get the job done well.

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Whilst we did indeed get the job done, I would not say working as one ‘Bard Unit’ is always the most efficient way of going about a job. Four men on four bikes works, but four men on one bike is just a logistical nightmare…

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Here’s a little video insight into this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uq9LhaeFdvg

However by the end, our bikes looked as good as the first day we lay eyes on them.

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Week Two (Part Two): “Learn, good soul,
 to think our former state a happy dream.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ladies and Gentlemen. May I introduce the newest member of the HandleBards team: Duke Menaphon:

Notice his sleek and sturdy exterior, his elegant fittings, and his regal wheels. Duke, we salute you.

As a side note, Dixon Bard put his foot down when we suggested getting another female trailer: “We couldn’t give the new trailer a female name! Not after Penny… It wouldn’t have felt right.” And we respected his wishes. However, we are also now desperate for some female company. 

Throughout Week Two, we have been lucky with the sun. We’ve had beautiful cycles, large audiences and blue skies. In fact, we went a little sun crazed and basked in its glory without really thinking of its power.

This is the consequence:

I hang my head in shame for this lack of foresight. As, last year, the ridiculous tan lines we had accumulated lasted 6 months after tour finished. 

It reminds me of the song “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” by Kenny Chesney. There’s one particular lyric: “…she’s even kind of crazy about my farmer’s tan”. It gives me hope that our bad tan lines shall be the latest in sexual attraction. If so - Hello ladies…

So moving swiftly on from our exquisite two-tone skin, we’ve cycled on to Elstow Abbey Middle School where we were greeted by staff member John.

We were honored to perform at the school, which brought our largest audience yet; 262 school children aged 11-13.

Whilst our version of Macbeth may have been a new experience for those watching, performing to a school was indeed a learning point for us as we had never done it before and were unsure of what to expect. Would the students be bored? Would they heckle? Would they be too shy to come up on stage? Would our production of Macbeth work inside?

We also had to think on our feet to cut the two-hour play down to just over an hour, which was the time slot allocated to us. We were not aware of this slot allocation until the night before, so we had fun testing our editing ability on stage and seeing if fellow Bards could keep up with the swift and sudden changes. We are very pleased to say all went well and that we now feel ready to perform this show in any setting, and to any age group.

The school was positively charming, the students were not only engaged with the show itself, but laughed and applauded each of their teachers (who we managed to incorporate into the show!).

It was clear to the Bards that the student/staff relationship was incredibly good, and that this school had a perfect atmosphere for creativity and education. Sadly, as the education system in the area is changing from a three-tier system, to a two-tier one, this middle school is being closed at the end of this term. A huge shame.

However, the school staff, being the wonderful people they are, are therefore arranging as many fabulous treats and experiences for their students that it can. One such outing includes going to London to see the smash-hit musical Wicked next week, which all us Bards are incredibly envious of. 

We were honored that the Bards were seen as one of the beneficial ‘treats’ that could be offered to the students, and thankful for the new experience.  It was a treat for us that after the show many of the students came up to ask us about our tour, the Shakespeare plays we perform, and about theatre in general.

If you would like the HandleBards to perform at your school, we would love the opportunity to do it again, so please email us on info@peculius.com.

Filed under shakespeare theatre macbeth the comedy of errors handlebards cycling bicycle wicked

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Penny's Funeral

Week Two (Part One): “She should have died hereafter; there would have been a time for such a word.” Macbeth

The start of Week Two was a time of mourning…

…Penny, our beloved trailer, who, over the course of two tours, covered 1000+ miles with us, sadly could not be fixed.

A moment of silence if you please. If you are wearing a helmet or hat, kindly remove it please for…

The HandleBards’ ode to Penny.

Filed under shakespeare bicycle cycling theatre macbeth the comedy of errors handlebards

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Week one (Part Three): “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.” The Tempest

This year we are performing 72 shows at 60+ venues.

The HandleBards work closely with the venues they visit. This being our second year means we have created a relationship with those locations we are returning to.

Without the wonderful individuals and families that run and manage the events at each venue, we could not have the great audience numbers we have experienced, the support we have encountered, and, very importantly, the hospitality that allows us to shower from time to time.

We wish to thank the incredible people that we have had the pleasure to work with, and to show you some of the beautiful places we have cycled to and through.

Thank you to My Good Man William who kicked off this year’s tour with some incredible music at Polesden Lacey, and to Vicky and Rick from Cobham who housed us that night.  To Christine at the Sustainability Centre, and to Gail and her family at Larmer Tree Gardens.

A special shout out must be made to Dark Island, and Dave, who blessed our first show of Macbeth by also wearing a Kilt (we thank you!).

I feel it is also important to not forget those pesky and upstaging peacocks at Larmer Tree Gardens, who managed to join in with the show by screeching at alarmingly apt moments. Most memorably, yelling alongside Moss Bard as his Lady Macbeth died. Seriously, whilst it was funny, their timing was also uncanny.

To Paul and Claire from the Painswick Rococo Gardens, where we had our first 100+ audience of the tour.

Paul also inspired us to take up a scientific experiment, which, I am sure, shall last us the tour:

Hypothesis: ‘Does the same local ale or local cider taste better when drunk from a tankard (glass, pewter, or ceramic,) than a standard pint glass?’

Method: To painstakingly try the best local ale or cider from each area visited from the named vessel above.

Conclusion: Yet to be established. Feel free to email us (info@peculius.com) with your personal preference. We’ve got a poll going and everything…

We would also like to thank Paul and Claire for letting us use their shower, thereby allowing us to wash the beans off Moss Bard’s shirt and prevent him from being ostracised from normal society due to the smell. 

*If you don’t understand the beans comment above, come and see Macbeth; Heinz shall never quite be the same again!

Finally today, we would like to thank Nigel and everyone at The Fleece Inn who showed us such wonderful hospitality. The Fleece Inn is a magical venue, a historic pub in Bretforton, which is owned by the National Trust. They programme an array of events, have a huge stock of local ales, and do fantastic food. We really do recommend visiting.

It is here we were introduced to the ceramic tankard and our first ever sip of proper cider. Currently, the tankard is topping the ranks in our scientific experiment. The Fleece Inn is also where we discovered our new favourite song: ‘Streets of London’, originally by Ralf McTell, but sung to us by our musician for the evening, Collin, who got our entire audience singing along.

It is no word of a lie to say we have been singing it at the top of our voices whilst cycling down A roads ever since.

Filed under cycling bicycle handlebards shakespeare macbeth the comedy of errors theatre uk streets of london

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Week One (Part Two): “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” Twelfth Night

There are times on tour when a series of events occur that make you feel like nobody would believe them if you wrote them down.

Such a series of events begins at the picturesque Courts Garden in Holt where we were shown hospitality by the wonderful Sonya, Peony, Paris and Paul.

As a side note, these are four truly wonderful people that anyone would be lucky to meet. Not only kind, but also hilarious and a little bit bonkers. We love these qualities in people because we feel that we resonate with them. We cannot express our gratitude enough.

 

But back to the story: At this venue the heavens opened on our rendition of ‘Macbeth’.  Everything was soaked. Costumes, tents, audience and actors. To our amazement and joy the 80+ audience stuck everything out and gave us a tremendous applause at the end. There was an added feeling of solidarity at the fact that both audience and actors had braved the storm together and laughed the whole way through the show.

As we scurried around trying to pack down the set and fan our kilts dry, an audience member called Fiona came up to us and asked what our favorite type of cake was.

The answer from the Bards was unanimous: “If you can get it right then nothing beats a proper fruitcake”.

Two days later, when performing ‘The Comedy of Errors’ 40 miles north from the Courts Garden, we were amazed to see Fiona sitting in the front row. She handed us the yummiest fruitcake we had ever tasted. Backstage we consumed a quarter of it there and then.

However, the Gods of Gastromy were not on our side. Having ceremoniously placed the cake on the back on Cheatle Bard’s trailer, we hit a turn at speed down Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire (famed for its annual cheese rolling event in May), and to Moss Bard’s horror, the cake flew from the trailer and split in two as it hit the concrete.

The bikes and trailer were going at such speed, that we could not stop and claim the fruitcake.  It is no lie to say we were devastated at the loss, and obviously would not have written about it if the story stops there. However, it doesn’t…

That evening we reached The Fleece Inn in Bretforton. This is a wonderfully historic pub that sells a fabulous local ale called ‘Pigs Ear’ (after having a few we noticed each pint became more delicious then the last and we slept very well that night…).

During our interval here, a lady we had never met walked up to Cheatle Bard and says “I hear you are partial to fruit cake”. She then hands him a bag and walks away. Backstage we open the bag and find not just any old fruitcake, but THE fruitcake, perfectly wrapped in its original foil, its two halves joined back together.

Instantly we started asking who in our group tweeted about the loss of the fruitcake, or facebooked about the loss of the fruitcake, having sworn we would never tell anyone via our social media, as we felt so guilty about it. Slowly we realised that none of us had mentioned the incident to anyone who had been at our shows, and we naturally did the sensible thing; we freaked out!

Let us rewind four hours to the fateful hill where that fruitcake learnt to fly, before proving that gravity works.

A little further down the fill, at the front of the pelaton, Dixon Bard and myself, Brodie Bard, pulled into a layby to wait for our colleagues. As we were waiting, a van pulled up and a man stepped out who, after a small conversation, we found was called David.

He asked what we were doing, and when we let him know, he told us that if we went to Burger Star in Cheltenham we would be given four free drinks to help sustain us on our travels. We thanked him and moved on, but not before Moss Bard and Cheatle Bard had joined us and told us of the fruitcake’s demise.

Burger Star was the perfect place to lift our spirits. A very quirky and fun place. We gratefully accepted our free drinks, and purchased some much needed chips. David had phoned ahead to let the guys know to expect us, and we let them admire our flyer, whilst we admired the photos on the walls. One pictured the Queen visiting the place, which I really hope is real.

Fast-forward again to the Fleece Inn, Bretforton: Freaked out during the interval, we found a letter next to the fruitcake. Scared and confused the HandleBards unfolded it, huddled together and began to read.

It turned out that David, whilst getting in to his van, had overheard Moss Bard’s tale of the loss of the fruitcake. Driving up the hill, he had spotted the cake - one half on the road, the other protruding from a bush. The lady who approached Cheatle Bard with the cake at The Fleece Inn was his wife, Linda, and they knew where to find us because of the flyer we had left at Burger Star.

So Fiona, we are so pleased to announce that the HandleBards, overjoyed to be reunited with their fruitcake, consumed it all. It was delicious, and it is safe to say the cake had a little HandleBard adventure of its own. The kindness of humans is remarkable sometimes!

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Week One (Part One): “And in this mist, at all adventures go!” - The Comedy of Errors

We are four actor-producers who have been preparing for this tour since November 2013, and it feels amazing to have finally embarked on our trip.

In the past week we have pedaled through 8 counties, cycled 326 miles, experienced the hospitality of 6 families and broken two trailers…already!  

Oh, and people have liked our shows (phew!).

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Okay. So lets start with bad news… This concerns our trailer, Penny:

As I sit outside the Mill Arts Centre in Banbury a week into tour, sipping on a cappuccino and generally just putting my legs up, the other Bards are scouring the town high and low for a new wheel-bearing for Penny, who sadly seems to be on her last wheels.

Until now, Penny has carried all of our costumes, one of the massive tents we use for the set and various props that cannot fit onto our other trailer, Old Adam.

Yesterday, her bearing broke, which basically means (for those of you as technically minded as myself) that, if we continue cycling, the friction caused by the wheel rubbing against the axle would result in a fire, and the HandleBards would be responsible for burning down the whole of the UK…

Needless to say our insurance does not cover this, so until this problem is solved we cannot use Penny. Either we need to think up a solution to this problem very very quickly (ideally before our next show!), or we shall be performing Macbeth and The Comedy Of Errors without half the set!

This is a genuine problem, which we are working to overcome, and once we know the solution I shall let you know. However, being the relaxed Bard of the group, I am not worried. I feel we faced much worse last year. I have faith in the scouring abilities of my Bard colleagues. And besides, they serve good coffee here, so it’s not a terrible place to be stranded.

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I’ll keep you posted,

Callum Brodie x

Filed under shakespeare tour uk theatre macbeth handlebards the comedy of errors bicycle cycling

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The HandleBards’ Handbook for Beautifully British and Bonkers Touring Theatre.

The HandleBards are back in the saddle with their 2000-mile adventure, and to celebrate we thought we would write a blog to let everyone know what happens behind the scenes.  So this is the prologue to the HandleBards’ Handbook of beautifully British and bonkers touring theatre.

This whole trip is one big gamble, and it could go either way. We have no support vehicle. We have no understudies. We have a show pretty much everyday and must cycle the entire route carrying all of the props, set and costumes with us. As of right now, we cannot guarantee everyone shall survive (dramatic!), but we can guarantee that whatever happens, we shall let you know about it via this blog.

So keep your eyes peeled to join us on our adventure!

And one more thing - three months is quite a lot of time in the saddle. So we’d love you all to send us some challenges/tasks to do on the road to keep us entertained! Send them to info@peculius.com or post them here, on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll blog all about them here!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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