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Summer’s best outdoor theatre

From Shakespeare to Austen to Dickens and beyond, there's an al-fresco production for everyone this season.

I’m writing a post on outdoor theatre, so expect the current spell of sunny weather to stop any minute now. Watching thesps al fresco in gorgeous verdant surroundings is a truly magical way to pass a balmy summer evening, so here’s our curated list of the best imminent productions, both local and London. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Maybe not right now, but tomorrow’s forecast looks good…


The Comedy of Errors, venues in Glos, 1 June – 14 July

Downpour Theatre Company presents The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s shortest yet wittiest play at Thornbury Castle (9 June), Kingshill House, Dursley (15 June), The Gardens at Miserden (21 and 22 June), and Rendcomb College (5 and 6 July), as well as Stroud (1-2 June) and Bristol Shakespeare Festivals (13-14 July). Be transported to the Byzantine Empire, when hilarity ensues when Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio arrive in the hustle and bustle of Ephesus which, unbeknownst to them, is the home of their identical twins, Antipholus and Dromio from whom they were separated in a tragic shipwreck when they were just infants. Over the course of a single day, mistaken identities lead to unfair beatings, wrongful arrests and false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness and even demonic possession. A gloriously silly farce, performed by a marvellously talented cast; what better way to spend a summer weekend! Get your tix


Ballet Under The Stars, Hatch House, 26-28 July

The Covent Garden Dance Company celebrates the 10th Anniversary of ‘Ballet Under the Stars’ this July, in Hatch House’s beautiful and romantic 17th Century Walled Dutch Garden. Enjoy breathtaking dance performances – a stunning mix of classical, neo-classical and contemporary ballet, celebrating the last decade of dance. This year boasts one of the most impressive line-ups of world class dancers that have ever performed at Hatch, including stars such as Xander Parish OBE of The Mariinsky Ballet, the first British dancer to ever be employed by this prestigious company, Steven McRae and Lauren Cuthbertson, both Principals with The Royal Ballet and Ksenia Ovsyanick, Principal Staatsballett Berlin. The programme will take some beating too, with highlights including tap work “Something Different” performed by Steven McRae. A quintessentially British evening in a beautiful country garden – a truly unmissable event.


Longborough Festival Opera, Moreton-in-Marsh

Love opera? Then you’ll be all about this summer festival which this year has its usual line-up of high-brow offerings. Still left to enjoy are Das Rheingold (5-11 June), Anna Bolena (22 June to 1 July), Don Giovanni (13-20 July) and La Calisto (29 July – 3 August). Longborough grounds are glorious, so dress up in your glad rags, pack a picnic or pre-order a hamper or, why the hell not, just dine in The Coach House Restaurant (see the menu here, £45 per person for a three-course meal) or Valley Buffet (£35 per person), and enjoy the show. Glyndebourne, eat your heart out.


Cowley Manor, near Cheltenham, 31 July

It’s 1792 and France is deep in the throes of revolution. The aristocracy are holding out for a hero, and one swoops in from across the Channel. A tale of England and France, of rich and poor, of divided loyalties and of a mysterious hero saving French nobles from the guillotine – just for fun! A small troupe of actors adopt a variety of disguises, accents and probably some beards, as Baroness Orczy’s classic adventure story The Scarlet Pimpernel gets the Jenny Wren treatment.


Lydiard House & Park, Swindon

lake trees grass

There’s a lot on offer at Lydiard House & Park, not least a Palladian house to drool over and 260 acres of parkland. But for my money, I’m thinking throw down a picnic blanket and enjoy the thespy, al-fresco offerings this summer. Multi-award nominated Immersion Theatre are thrilled to present the most magical and romantic comedy of them all, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Set in Great Britain just before the start of the Great War, this hilarious and highly accessible adaptation sees Shakespeare’s fantastical characters transported to a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity. Four young lovers, a band of hapless actors, and a magical realm populated by enchanting spirits set on causing mischief and mayhem at every turn culminate in an unparalleled open-air experience of beauty and hilarity. Bring picnic blankets, rugs or low-back chairs and enjoy live theatre in the beautiful surroundings of Lydiard Park. Refreshments are also available on site.


The Tuckwell Amphitheatre, Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham, dates in July and August

Another great summer line-up at this magical amphitheatre tucked away in the woods of Dean close. Take your pick from Much Ado About Nothing, Stan and Ollie in Cinema Under the Stars, The Mikado, The Comedy of Errors, Gangsta Granny, and Uncle Vanya, amongst others.


Dyrham Park, Dyrham

grand country house rolling hills

The Chamberlain’s Men are performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the 17th-century country estate stunner on 2 and 3 August. Arrive early I reckon to have a snoop round what must be one of the National Trust’s most glorious properties in Gloucestershire. Then sit back and enjoy a fast-paced production of the bard’s supernatural masterpiece.


Marlborough College Summer School, Marlborough

Illyria theatre company returns for their 5th consecutive year at Marlborough College Summer School with Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. Like all the stories in this towering literary classic, this year’s production is packed with cliff-hangers, larger-than-life characters and laughs galore. There’s lots to join in with and the most magical cave you’ve ever seen! This is perfect summer fun for thieves and vagabonds aged 5 and over. A funny, much-loved and exciting adventure, performed by those legends of open air theatre, Illyria. Under 18s can accompany an adult free to this performance, so book your tickets early to avoid disappointment.


Illyria Outdoor Theatre, venues across Glos and Wilts in July and Aug

Another fabulous slate of summer outings for Illyria, with three touring productions including Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, The Tempest and Frankenstein. Venues across the counties include Sandford Parks Lido, Glastonbury Abbey, Bowerchalke, Sherborne, Wimborne, Painswick Rococo Garden, Lacock Abbey and Corfe Castle amongst others.


Chapterhouse, venues in Glos

Favourite outdoor theatre company Chapterhouse returns to Glos this summer with their productions of Treasure Island, Pride and Prejudice and Cranford.


Iford Arts, Iford Manor, nr Bradford on Avon

The internationally renowned Iford Arts Festival (opera, picnic proms and classical cloister concerts) stages L’Elisir D’Amore at gorgeous Belcombe Court, Bradford on Avon this August. Don’t miss out!


Rain or Shine, As You Like It, various venues 

Join one of Shakespeare’s most famous heroines, Rosalind, as she makes her way in a world full of power, jealousy and tyranny. In fear for her life and in search of true love, she flees her heritage with her cousin Celia and fool Touchstone. Will disguising herself as a country lad lead her to a new life full of hope, laughter, and her banished father? Dates throughout July and August at venues across Glos and Wilts.


Creation Theatre, Oxford

The quirky Oxford theatre company has three cracking outdoor shows taking place across the city this summer. Pictures of Dorian Gray (9-27 July), The Tempest (19 July – 15 August) and Don Quixote (dates in August TBC), made even more special by the setting of Oxford’s spectacular outdoor spaces.


Open Air Theatre, Regents Park, London

The most famous of them all, Regent’s Park’s theatre is set within beautifully landscaped grounds where you can picnic on the lawns, enjoy food from the barbecue, café or covered dining and prop up the West End’s longest bar. The season kicks off with Our Town (to 8 June), followed by Hansel and Gretel (14-22 June) and concluding with A Midsummer Night’s Dream (28 June – 27 July) and Evita (2 Aug to 21 Sept). Prices £25 – £55 apart from dinosaurs tickets which are £16.50. Pretty good value for top notch theatre.


Have we missed anything amazing off the list? Let us know in the comment box below!

2 comments on “Summer’s best outdoor theatre”

  • suetucker August 3, 2019

    Ballet under the stars at Hatch House – truly magical evening – we went (thanks to your guide, in fact!)

  • Denise Humphries July 24, 2018

    It looks like these are all professional productions. There are quite a few amateur productions on the go as well, which are extremely good – and they run for five or six nights in one location. Shakespeare at Chedworth Manor has just finished a run of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, Shakespeare Live in Seend has just finished a run of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, and I am currently Stage Manager for the Cotswold Arcadians’ production of ‘Twelfth Night’ which is on at Hatherop Castle near Fairford.
    Each group puts on a different production every year in the same open air location, and I am sure there are other amateur groups in and around Wilts/Glos that do the same.
    Please support local amateur theatre!


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