Earlier this year some friends told us about a theatre group who cycle up the country to the Edinburgh Festival delivering plays at a variety of venues on the way. We thought that sounded a bit bats, lots of fun and that we ought to go. Which is how, on the coldest evening of the summer so far, we ended up picnicking in front of the gorgeous Howsham Mill followed by a fabulously funny version of Twelfth Night.
There are two groups of Handlebards on their way up to Edinburgh; four women who are performing Romeo and Juliet and four men performing Twelfth Night. Having seen Twelfth Night I’m very tempted to find the nearest performance of Romeo and Juliet.
I enjoyed the informality of going to an open air venue. We arrived quite early, not really knowing where we were going, and so got an excellent spot and no one came to sit in front of us. Best seats in the house. The actors and their Tour Manager were wandering around chatting to people, there were picnics, groups of friends meeting up, the smell of delicious food cooking and lots of laughter. Whilst the evening wasn’t particularly warm it wasn’t cold enough to distract from the performance and at least it stayed dry.
I’m not really sure how to describe the performance. I think it’s one of those “you had to be there” bouts of silliness that lose in the retelling. The actors were good, they managed to become the various parts they were playing – not an easy feat when your characters are all on stage together! – and they told the story in an engaging way.
I loved the way the costumes were constructed so characters could be represented even when their actor was delivering another part. The inventiveness of the props and the way the audience and their picnics were incorporated into the action added to the fun of the evening. Note to potential audience members – make sure you have spare food and drink, yours might become part of the performance!
I think the best compliment I can pay The Handlebards is to say my face still aches from smiling and laughing and I’m chuckling whilst writing this remembering things that happened.
This is probably Shakespeare as it was performed when new, it is fun, entertaining and a brilliant way to introduce people to some fabulous plays.
I can’t wait until we can see them again.