- 11 April, 2019
The HandleBards are the only cycling theatre troupe in existence and champion environmentally sustainable shows. They will be pedalling to Dulwich in May to perform Much Ado About Nothing in the beautiful surroundings of JAGS fields. we caught up with founder, producer and performer, Paul Moss ahead of the event.
You’re the founder of the world’s first cycling theatre company, where did this concept come from?
It came from a sense of adventure, and a love of puns…
We started the company back in 2013, just after we’d graduated from university. We each came from very different academic backgrounds, but had a shared love of theatre, and we fancied doing something a bit different with our post-graduation summer. We hadn’t really planned for it to still be an adventure seven years later!
You actually pedal from venue to venue with all your props, set, costumes etc that’s quite a challenge! How does this impact on your artistic decisions?
It actually helps to fuel our imagination – because we can’t carry very much with us, we need to be innovative in how we use everything that we do bring, and where we might be able to source certain props and costumes during the show (perhaps using picnics, or audience members, to help out…). The constraints of the production really make us work hard – but out of that comes a very tight, imaginative show.
How important is sustainability to you as a performing group?
Extremely important! If we don’t look after our environment and act sustainably in everything we do, we risk not being able to do work at all. As such, environmental sustainability is always at the forefront of our work.
How do you incorporate all these elements into a Shakespeare performance?
Shakespeare is a very flexible playwright – his stories are so strong, and often so well known – that we can really play with all the different elements of his plays. Our overriding thought when putting shows together, however, is that we need to tell the story first and foremost – if an audience doesn’t understand the story, then we’re going to lose them very quickly!
There are many different theatre groups performing Shakespeare – what is the Handlebards take on bringing the great Bard’s work to a modern audience?
Our main aim is to break down any conceptions of Shakespeare being particularly difficult or elitist. We take Shakespeare to venues across the entirety of the country – to castles, gardens, stately homes and theatres, but also to pub gardens, cycle cafes, boats, mountains and car parks. His stories are wonderful, and are the basis of so much of our modern media, so it’s a joy to be able to share them with everyone.
You’re not only performing as a small group, but also cycling often challenging terrain, how important is it to work as a team and how do you achieve this?
It’s all about being open – to each other and everyone around you. Things go wrong all the time, but there is always someone who can help. We rely on the kindness of those around us, but in return we offer a very open performance, and you’re always welcome to join us for a drink after the show. There are people that we have met on tours over the years who we’re now great friends with, all because we were open to each other and happy to help each other out.
You’ll premiere Much Ado About Nothing at the Festival, tell me about your latest show
It’s a four-actor, all-male production, directed by Emma Sampson – who is renowned for some of our wackiest shows! It’s filled with music, beautiful language and possibly a bit of acrobatics…who knows at this stage!
The fun element seems key with your performances, not only for the audiences but for the troupe itself
If the troupe weren’t having fun, then the show wouldn’t be half as good. That’s the most important thing for the company – having fun!
And finally …picnic stealing … what’s that about ?
Well, as we’re cycling around 30 miles a day, carrying everything for the show with us, then some extra calories always come in handy!