TAKE a Yorkshire summer evening (with a threat of thunder), picnics, a Shakespeare play generally acknowledged as being

"difficult" because of it the strange mix of themes it contains, a cast of only four (and all of them female!) a mish-mash of costumes and props and four bicycles and you have either a recipe for unmitigated disaster or the

makings of an evening that you never will forget!

Thanks to the skill and imagination of the Handlebards it was most definitely the latter!

The whole concept of Handlebards is to make Shakespeare both accessible and sustainable but that is not to say that this is 'Shakespeare-Lite', for the main themes are still there

with this production still covering all elements of romance, comedy and revenge

and the weighty and more controversial concepts of ownership and slavery still being tackled.

However the bias in the performance is very much in favour of comedy with the emphasis on bringing text

to life in a vivacious and unique way, which demands much from the talented

group of actors. Not only will this tour take them over 1,500 miles on bicycles, but they will be carrying their own

costumes and set with them as they go and on arriving at the venue will then create their own stage and put on a full production with numerous quick changes - an exhausting achievement in itself!

Each of the actors plays many roles, with simple props and costume changes and changes of accent helping to distinguish one character from another - and where the situation arises that there needs to be a dialogue between two characters played by the same actor then an audience member is simply

press-ganged in to assist.

This, of course, is the other key element of the performance - audience participation is essential, for not only do they need to

enter whole-heartedly into the imaginative aspect of the show, where bells, bubbles, streamers and a stuffed fish are used to represent the actual tempest but they also have to be willing to become part of the action and donate items

from their picnics as required. Special congratulations to all audience members who so willingly played along with the cast and added to the enjoyment of all the others present by their involvement.

None of this however would be possible without the very skilled direction of Nel Crouch and the amazing teamwork and precision of the multi-talented Ellice Stevens, Katier Sherrard, Roisin Brehony and Tika Mutamir who can summon up a stage set and character with a magical skill which outdoes even Prospero himself!

Never a show for Shakespeare purists, this is however a wonderfully entertaining evening for anyone who believes that there

is something in the bards works which can speak to everyone and anyone!

Gill O'Donnell