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8 Best outdoor theatres to enjoy this summer

3 min read

8 Best outdoor theatres to enjoy this summer
With the seasons changing, now is the perfect time to start planning summer experiences at outdoor theatres in parks, city squares, woodlands and even the side of a cliff! 
Now that the days are getting longer and your creaking bones are warming in the first signs of sunshine, it’s time to start planning for summer! There’s nothing more magical than spending a long, languid evening watching a bit of theatre, Pimms in hand, surrounded by woodlands and bird chatter, or in one instance, the rushing shore and the sea wind tickling your face.
There are plenty of outdoor theatres to choose from, and we’ve put together a list of the best ones to visit across the UK.

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London

No matter the weather, as far as I’m concerned when Regent's Park starts its theatre season, summer has truly begun. Surrounded by dense whistling trees and chirping birds, you may as well be a thousand miles from the surrounding city.
Regent's Park is home to the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. Image: ed g2s • talk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This year sees a typically varied programme with Twelfth Night opening, Fiddler on the Roof closing and plenty in between.

Grosvenor Park, Chester

Every summer come July, Storyhouse theatre packs up their props, sidles down the road and builds an entire amphitheatre in Grosvenor Park.
"The Gangs of New York seems like a wild pick for a summer outdoor show"
This year’s programme sees an eclectic trio: The Gangs of New York, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Wizard of Oz. I’m most excited by the first: a new adaptation written by Kieran Lynn and directed by John Young, I don’t think this story has ever been staged before and it seems like a wild pick for a summer outdoor show.

Thorington Theatre, Suffolk

A new and beautiful addition to the outdoor theatre world, opening in 2021, Thorington is built in a natural amphitheatre hidden in the Suffolk woodlands.  
This year’s programme includes family favourites such as Teddy Bear’s Picnic and The Little Mermaid, Shakespeare’s The Tempest as well as the mandatory A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a little Sondheim with Sunday in the Park with George. You can also now order a picnic from local supper club Husk to meet you an hour before your show in an adjoining field.

Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Built into a cliff face in Porthcurno, you hardly need an excuse to visit this theatre; seeing anything at all, backdropped by the azure Cornish sea, will be an unforgettable experience.
This year sees touring productions of Little Shop of Horrors, The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary and the usual smattering of Shakespeare amongst other things. If you want a show particularly fitting for this unique surrounding, check out The Pirates of Penzance playing in September.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Highland Perthshire

Throughout most of the year, the Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s indoor auditorium and studio serve as their regular performance spaces. But come summer, you can see equally lavish productions at the amphitheatre, nestled in the woods and overlooking Ben-Y-Vrackie mountain.
"This year they’ll be staging The Secret Garden, the perfect story for this lush garden stage"
This year they’ll be staging Dido and Aeneas, and The Secret Garden, the perfect story for this lush garden stage.

Willow Globe, Powys

An intimate theatre, the Willow Globe’s design is based on the London Globe Theatre, but it’s about a third of the size and formed not from timber, but willow trees woven together.
Their programme is largely filled with all things Shakespeare: straight plays, of course, but also plenty of fun introductions and interpretations to bring the Bard’s words to new or reluctant audiences. Check out Debs Newbold’s King Lear Retold if you want the power and depth of Lear in a thoroughly modern retelling. Personally, I’m intrigued by Sun and Moon Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale, mostly because I always love to see how they decide to stage “Exeunt, pursued by a bear.”

Roman Theatre Open Air Festival, St Alban’s

Situated in the country’s oldest theatre still actually producing theatre—an old Roman arena, hence the name—this year the festival offers a mix of straight classics, modern retellings and brand-new scripts.
"The festival offers a mix of straight classics, modern retellings and brand-new scripts"
The whole line-up looks excellent but I’m a sucker for any production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and as the name suggests, there’s no better place to see it than an outdoor theatre. 

Shakespeare in the Squares, London

These guys do what they say on the tin, travelling across the squares of London with a new Shakespeare production every year. This year will be All’s Well That Ends Well “with gypsy swing music and a fairytale twist”.
Is there anything more luxuriously summery than lazing down to your local square for a bit of Shakespeare and a picnic? And if there’s a square nearby you that isn’t currently hosting, get in touch and let them know!
Cover image: Minack Theatre by Tim Lewy, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons
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