Ahead of their show on the lawn on Thursday 22 June, we caught up with the cycling troupe/theatre makers The Handlebards! Known for being the world’s first cycling theatre company, they pedal from venue to venue with all the set, props and costume necessary to perform environmentally sustainable Shakespeare across the globe. We asked them all about being a HandleBard, what their biggest challenges are and which cycling hero they would most like to join them on tour! For more information and to book tickets, please visit the webpage.

What is it like being a HandleBard?

Jess Hern: I’m a fairly new recruit to the HandleBards, but it’s like joining a family, the support and teamwork from the theatres and fellow Bards is wonderful.

Lucy Green: I find being a HandleBard is exhilarating, fun and a wonderful, wonderful challenge.handlebards 1

Lotte Tickner: Yup – it’s so much fun. Ridiculous. Life affirming. Daily adventure, challenges and laughter…

Eleanor Dillon-Reams: It’s Exhausting, exhilarating, absolutely bonkers, and the bestest fun ever!

What is the biggest challenge? Learning lines or negotiating bicycles?

JH: For now learning lines (a quarter of the play each!) was the hardest bit, but ask me again when we hit the Peak District…

LT: Yup – line learning for me too.

EDR: For me, it was negotiating bicycles – pre HandleBards I’d only really done cycling in a spin class… and they don’t move…

LG: Learning lines was pretty challenging but once they are in they are there until the end of time so if you need a quote for ‘As You Like It’ in ten years’ time, hit me up.

What’s the best bit about the tour?

LT: Spending the whole summer outside. Bliss.handlebards 3

LG: Traveling around England seeing and performing in wonderful places.

JH: For me, it’s getting to see so much of the country and meet incredible characters along the way. It’s such early days that I’m excited to see how different parts of the UK react to the show.

EDR: I love being out on the open road, as part of the most brilliant team, and then getting to play every evening together!

Tell us about any interesting encounters on the way?

LT: I’m sure there are plenty of ghosts in the haunted houses we visit…

EDR: We once had a local telling us that the next day’s cycle would only take half an hour and there would just be one hill. 16 miles later, we realised that he might have been telling fibs.

How do you cope when it’s raining cats and dogs?

LT: ‘Some feel the rain. Others just get wet.’

JH: On our first cycle of tour it rained cats and dogs – you throw on a mac and a smile and feel very lucky you are paid to cycle with 5 lovely people around the UK.handlebards 2

EDR: We sing, smile, remind ourselves we could be clearing tables or stuck in an office and keep on keeping on!

LG: Yup – brace yourself and smile.

Which ‘As You Like It’ character would carry off Lycra?

EDR: Hymen would totally rock an entirely garish neon ensemble… but our designer, Berta, went for a slightly different option!

JH: Oh it has to be William! He only appears for one scene but I like to think he’d be a stallion in Lycra.

LT: Martin the sheep. Definitely.

LG: I don’t think he could pull it off, but I would love to see Silvius in a full Lycra body suit.

Which cycling hero would you most like to join the tour?

JH: Bradley Wiggins, because I remember watching him cycle past my house in the Men’s road time trial in the 2012 London Olympics and it was electric, he won gold!

LT: Laura Trott!!!

EDR: Annie Cohen Kopchovsky (the first woman to cycle round the world!)

LG: Beryl Burton.

Are you going to post your routes on Strava?

JH: Yes, I have been Stravaring and will continue to do so!

LT: Jess is on it for us all!

The HandleBards will be performing on the lawn at the front of the building on Thursday 22 June. To find out more and to book tickets, please visit the webpage

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