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The Reader at Calderstones goes bonkers for Shakespeare 

Written by Rachael Norris, 25th August 2019

Our opening season of exciting events and activities kicked off on Saturday as we welcomed outdoor touring theatre, The Handlebards, to the Meadow at Calderstones Park.

Despite a stormy outlook and heavy showers, the show did indeed go on and it was just as well as hundreds of intrepid revellers – some from as far afield as Scarborough and Sheffield – donned their waterproofs and settled in to enjoy an evening of Shakespeare as we’d never seen it before.

Thankfully, the weather came on side and apart from a pre-interval shower, and some atmospheric gusts of wind whipping up the trees, we were treated to an unforgettable performance of Much Ado About Nothing that had young and old in fits of laughter.

Actors Mark Collier, Robin Harris, Ross Ford and William Ross-Fawcett – aka The Handlebards – had us all hooked as they skilfully switched characters and entertained us with song, dance, slapstick and of course, their trademark bonkers style.

The cast was ably supported by two plucky audience members who were drafted in throughout the evening.

Kris, from Liverpool, threw himself into a variety of supporting roles – from partygoer to Friar Francis. Originally from Germany, Kris later admitted that while he hadn’t followed all the dialogue, he’d been only too happy to get up and join in the with the capers.

The other star of the show was Faith, from Toxteth, a volunteer from the British Red Cross SNAP (Strategic Network Asylum Programme), whose patience, as she was repeatedly called back to the stage, was a highlight of the performance.

Speaking about her impromptu moment of fame after the show, Faith said: “I had no idea that I’d end up being part of the performance tonight but I really enjoyed it! I like Shakespeare anyway but I absolutely loved The Handlebards and the unique style they brought to the performance was just fantastic – what a great evening!”

The Handlebards’ Mark Collier, who enthralled us all with his Claudio and Beatrice, as well as his ability to eat bananas one after the other, said “We’ve had such fun performing here tonight – it’s great to be in such a big, open space despite the uncertain weather!

“It was lovely to look out and see people of all ages enjoying the show. We’re pleased to have had such a great first show and we look forward to returning again soon.”

To keep up-to-date with details of future events at The Reader at Calderstones, be sure to check our website regularly and follow @Calderstones on social.

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