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HandleBards bring Shakespeare alive for Years 5 & 6

Published on 18/10/17

On Monday 16 October pupils in Years 5 & 6 were treated to a wonderful performance of ‘As You Like It’, by HandleBards, a touring theatre company whose troupes travel everywhere on their bikes! We learnt how they had spent four months of the recent summer cycling 1,099 miles all the way from London to Edinburgh.

The show opened with a brief introduction to the story, during which the children’s prior knowledge of the play was gently assessed. This energetic troupe of four girls took on a variety of roles with changes of accents, body language and simple costume adaptations. Physical theatre was widely used. When the actors were not performing roles, they created the set; one became the orchard, a boxing ring was fashioned from ribbons, held by the audience, The Forest of Arden made from two hand held bouquets. Unexpectedly Miss Stevens took an improvised part as the giant and demonstrated her boxing talents! 

Each change of character within the play was punctuated with the ring of a bicycle bell. There was a lot of audience participation, not to mention some scavenging sheep, with handlebar horns, who helped themselves to our mid-morning snacks. The actors used original Shakespeare language yet managed to make the text clear and entertaining to the audience. Parts were cleverly played using props to represent people, puppets to narrate the story, sports equipment for props.

The question and answer session that followed allowed our pupils to discover more about the play, including what it was like to pretend to be in love when you weren’t really. A perceptive question followed from a Year 5 pupil, who asked what had happened to one of the characters, Adam, who did not reappear at the end of the play.  

The company told us about how they cycled up to Dundee from London and as far South as Brighton. In two weeks’ time they are heading off to India (although they will be travelling by plane!). Pupils wondered how all the props are carried on bikes and the company explained that they take two big trailers with them, dragging the equivalent weight of two Stephen Perse Junior School pupils behind them! They cycle about six hours in a day, in all weathers, covering 30 miles. Despite how tired they feel after all the travelling, they still somehow find the energy to perform a show on arrival.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable morning and left pupils uplifted and impressed by the sheer vigour of the performance.

Following the morning’s wonderful production, Year 6 pupils were in for a treat when they participated in a stimulating and riveting workshop with the enthusiastic HandleBards actors. It began with some warm-up activities, such as using bodies to act out words and, working as an ensemble, passing a hand clap around a circle.

This was followed, after careful reference back to the tale of ‘As You Like It’, with activities designed to help prepare actors to get into a role. Consider the female protagonist, Rosalind, who dresses up as a man - pupils acted out being ‘like a man’ by shouting this phrase as they strolled off into the imaginary forest of Arden. Our male central character, Orlando, ‘the younger son of old Sir Roland’, inspired some serious slow motion fighting. And, as a nod to this morning’s antics, whenever the word, ‘Arden’ was uttered, the pupils all had to carry out some very impressive balletic moves. 

Using imaginary helium balloons tied to noses helped pupils demonstrate status, whereas having imaginary bowling balls attached to chests gave pupils a chance to show age. A vivid imagination and being able to immerse themselves into many different acting activities meant Year 6 pupils reaped the rewards of this unique opportunity to see what it is like to create a character the HandleBards way.

It was extremely interesting to learn about how actors put together plays and this helps us with our own Drama lessons."


I liked how they used imaginary props such as bowling balls and helium balloons to help us get into character."


It made us ask ourselves if this is what an actor has to go through in preparation for each play."


And a final quote from one of the HandleBards themselves in response to the question, “Do you ever get bored?”

“No, never - you do it, you love it and have lots of fun doing it.”

It is safe to say that is exactly how our Year 6 pupils felt about the taking part in HandleBards workshop.

Tagged  creativity