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Get on your bike, for high-energy, laugh-a-minute performances

Meet Callum Brodie, Tom Dixon, Paul Moss and Fergus Leathem, who together make up the Handlbards. Famed for taking to their cycles for theatre tours that span the length and breadth of the UK, they perform Shakespearean classics with props restricted to what you might find on a bike or in a campsite. In doing so, they’ve gained a dedicated fan following, and a reputation for hilarious performances. Their first tour outside of Europe finds them all set to stage Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors at venues across the city.

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Aware that contemporary audiences can struggle with Elizabethan English, the Handlebards above all aim to make their shows accessible. “First we make sure that we fully understand what we are saying, so that we can properly convey it to our audience,” says Dixon, adding that having spent the last two years performing to audiences made up of ‘seven to 70-year-olds from different backgrounds’, they’ve learnt to be adaptable and respond to feedback. Audience participation is also an integral part of any Handlebards performance. “Although we are true to the originals, we like to have lots of informal and light-hearted moments in which we engage with our audience as performers,” explains Brodie, who trained in contemporary circus and physical theatre.

Funny bone
With only four actors playing all of the parts, audience participation often takes a literal turn, with members of the crowd pulled in to help. The group follows the ‘unwritten rule’ that if a character is on stage once in a scene, then they need to remain present. “We do this in a variety of ways, from holding up a camping plate with the character’s name on it, or putting an audience member in their place. 1004CultureLead4It adds a wonderfully comedic layer to the play as audiences watch us franti cally running around the stage,” says Dixon. While the UK tours were characterised by grueling bike rides between venues, for now the Handlbards are off their cycles, performing only here in Bangalore while in India. “If this is successful we would love to come back and organise a cycling tour of India. The only problem we’d face is the large distances between cities! Perhaps we could take the shows from city to city in rickshaws?” suggests Brodie, adding that next year they hope to be taking A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet on an international tour.

Macbeth: April 10-12 at Jagriti, Whitefield. The Comedy of Errors: April 15 at The Humming Tree Indiranagar and April 16-18 at Smart Studio, Ulsoor. Tickets (`300) on bookmyshow.com
—Maegan Dobson Sippy

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