There can be a tough road ahead for anyone embarking on a career in theatre, but four aspiring stage stars are doing it by bike.
Durham University graduates Callum Cheatle and Paul Moss are one half of The HandleBards, a travelling theatre troupe on two wheels – well, eight if you include all four bikes.
Tomorrow the intrepid quartet will embark on an epic theatrical odyssey, cycling all the way from Glasgow to London.
They plan to stop only to camp and to give performances of two Shakespeare plays along the way.
The tour promises Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night as we have never seen them performed before.
“We have no motorised back-up, nothing,” says Callum who was brought up in Kenya, lives in London and graduated from Durham two years ago.
“Everything we’ll need for the tour we’ll be carrying on the bikes so we’ll be improvising a lot. Bicycle pumps will be used for swords, that kind of thing.”
The four friends – the others being Tom Dixon, who studied in Sheffield, and Callum Brodie, who went to a Bristol circus school – will be cycling a total of 926 miles.
Since they will also be carrying camping gear, it promises to be a well-laden peloton. The lads, who boast they will be saving 20.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, are carrying a lot of optimism too.
“None of us was a cyclist before so we have been training hard for several months,” says Callum.
The friends are seasoned members of a theatre company called Peculius but The HandleBards is a new venture.
“Because we used to do some touring Shakespeare when we were in Durham we decided we’d like to carry that on in a more adventurous way,” explains Callum.
“In a way we’re harking back to how they used to tour in Shakespeare’s day, travelling by horse and cart.
“One of our friends had just gone from Land’s End to John o’ Groats and we thought it would be good to combine that kind of adventure with theatre.”
While the four built up their calf muscles, they also advertised for a director to lick their productions into shape.
They considered themselves lucky to land James Farrell whose professional credits include Pericles for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Callum says they had some funding from The Old Vic Theatre which is supporting the enterprise and which enabled them to hire James.
The HandleBards have worked hard to put together a tour of manageable cycling stints amounting to no more than 40 miles at a stretch.
Callum says they could have added more venues, such was the interest, but that would have added to the distance and had them crossing the Pennines over and over again.
If you want to see The HandleBards they will be performing at Etal Manor, on the Ford and Etal Estate, Northumberland, on July 9, at Whalton Manor, near Morpeth, on July 11, at The Cycle Hub, Newcastle on July 13, at Crook Hall in Durham on July 14 and 15, and at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, on July 16.
With many more miles to cover before their last performance in London on August 23, we should find them relatively fresh.
All the performance details can be found online at www.peculius.com