It’s not really summer unless you spend at least one evening watching theater in the open air. A quick look at your local newspaper or listings magazine will almost certainly reveal at the very least an opportunity to watch an am-dram company presenting a Shakespeare staple in your local park. But some communities do a lot better than that, so we take a look at just three of the very finest outdoor theatres in the country.
Holkham Hall Gardens, Wells-next-the-Sea
Norfolk’s beautiful Holkham Estate regularly hosts a mixed programme of impressive outdoor theatre in its gorgeous walled gardens. This year the assortment of one-off presentations starts on 22 July with Oscar Wilde’s popular comedy The Importance of Being Earnest presented by students at London’s prestigious Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and ends with a musical Robin Hood from Cambridge Touring Theatre on 26 August. A highlight is bound to be Chapterhouse Theatre’s The Secret Garden on 12 August, which features magical puppets and a real ‘secret’ garden!
Adult tickets £13-15, see holkham.co.uk for full programme
Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT)
The newest of our picks has only just opened in Brighton’s Dyke Road Park. A real community enterprise, and the creative legacy of local immersive theatre pioneer, the late Adrian Bunting, it’s an impressive grass amphitheatre with a programme of theatre, spoken word and open-air cinema that started in May and runs into September. Among the many live delights still to come this year are a promising collaboration with local comedy heroes The Treason Show on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, a two-part epic dramatisation of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend from local company Two Bins, and Roman comedy The Eunuch from the promisingly-named new ‘DAFT’ theatre company.
Check brightonopenairtheatre.co.uk for dates and prices for the whole season
Minack Theatre, Penzance
This dramatic Cornish venue, cut into the granite cliffs of Porthcurno, is in a setting arguably too beautiful not to be distracting, but they do their best to hold their own against the stunning seascapes with a lively programme of dramas, musicals and opera from both local amateurs and some impressive touring companies. This year, between 13 July and 25 September, they’re offering an epic The Grapes of Wrath (which they promise can only be enhanced by “anything the elements might throw at it”) from regulars Shattered Windscreen, and a visit from the Shakespeare’s Globe on tour with their Much Ado About Nothing. A Winchester College production of King Lear is likely to be one of the few open-air productions this summer to be hoping for storms…
A full programme, with tickets starting at £4.50 can be found at minack.com
What’s your experience of outdoor theatre?