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Fresh! Best outdoor theatre in Bucks & Oxon

Picnic hampers and fold-up chairs at the ready: it's outdoor theatre season! You've got your pick this year, from kid-pleasing comedy to gritty classics. Here are the best to book now.

Oxford Castle and Prison

There are three productions taking place over this year’s annual Oxford Shakespeare Festival; Hamlet (20 June – 2 July) by BMH Productions, Wild Goose Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (4-30 July) and King Lear (1-13 August) with Siege Theatre. All performances take place on the castle yard and will go ahead unless rain is torrential, in which case there are various refund options. Buy tickets (from £15) here.

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury

As usual, there’s loads of treats on at Waddesdon Manor this summer. The all-male company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men, are touring with As You Like It, which is touching down at Waddesdon on 23 June  – adult tickets from £20.50. Then there is a family-focused performance of The Tales of Peter Rabbit with Quantum Theatre on 22 July, (£13 / £17), and an afternoon performance of Hamlet by Unbound Theatre on 24 July (free with grounds admission). The War of the Worlds is given a funny, affectionately irreverent makeover by the Pantaloons Theatre Company on 5 August (£17) while two weeks later, Robin Hood by Unbound Theatre will be performed in the Woodland Café on the afternoon of 21 August (free with grounds admission). Bring chairs, blankets, a picnic and suitably warm clothes to pad back down to the car park. Book tickets here.

Chipping Norton Theatre

The Cotswolds-based company is taking a few productions outside this summer, starting on 22 June with an interactive murder mystery, Much Ado About Murder, in the glorious surrounds of Wroxton Abbey (pictured) near Banbury (tickets from £12.50). August brings two performances of David Walliams’ Awful Auntie, in Cornbury Park on 10 August and at Heath Farm on 11 August (tickets from £10). Then, the rolling paddocks of New Barn Farm, part of the Ditchley Estate, will play host to A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 27-28 August. Prices start at £12.50. Buy all tickets here.

Waterperry Gardens, Wheatley

The open air amphitheatre at Waterperry Gardens is perfectly designed for outdoor performances, and there’s quite a selection this summer to sink your teeth into. A dance-focused, family-focused version of The Secret Garden is kicking off the season on 23 July (from £11), followed by a ‘delightfully daft’ retelling of Rapunzel (from £11, 30 July) and a wholesome showing of The Three Musketeers on 6 August (from £10) . The Waterperry Opera Festival is quick to follow on between 12 – 20 August including performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Tickets start at £15. Book all here.

The Arches, near Olney, MK

Everything The Arches does is in the open air, thanks to the unique placing of the theatre under disused railway arches in Clifton Reynes near Olney. And, happily, they’ve got loads on this year. First up is The Last Baguette Theatre Company’s King Arthur (21 July) followed by a Shakespeare Circus production of The Tempest (22 July). Then, between 28-30 July, Etcetera Theatre Company is putting on The Importance Of Being Earnest. On 20 August it’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (by The Wet Mariners), and a double Dot Productions bill on 21 August with The Jungle Book (1pm) and Pygmalion (5pm). 27-28 August brings showings of The Merry Wives of Windsor (3pm) and Dracula (7.30pm), courtesy of British Touring Shakespeare. Then, on 1-2 September you can catch the final three chapters of Ripping Yarns – the Boy’s Own adventure parodies by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, from Milton Keynes Theatre of Comedy. Phew! That should do the trick. Tickets here.

Cogges Manor Farm, near Witney

The peaceful Cogges Manor lawn becomes a verdant stage for two choice bits of outdoor theatre this summer. First up is Buttercross Theatre Productions’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 23 June – 1 July, tickets from £8. Then, on 23 August it’s The Pirates of Penzance (pictured) courtesy of award-winning outdoor theatre company Illyria, tickets from £10. Standard and vegan picnic boxes are available to purchase for £10, and there’s also a bar with snacks and ice cream. Tickets here.

Stonor Park, near Henley-on-Thames

Just one piece of open air theatre coming to Stonor this year, but it’s a good’un. The all-male company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men are putting on As You Like It on 9 June (also on at Waddesdon, as covered above) just as it would have been in Shakespeare’s day: with Elizabethan costumes, in the open air, and all played by men. The gorgeous parkland and statement stately home make a dreamy backdrop. £10 for a child and £17 for an adult, book here.

The Oxford Playhouse

This Oxford staple is offering two outdoors productions this summer. Things kick off with The Tempest (£16) from 19-30 July by the amateur but no less entertaining Oxford Theatre Guild, at Oxford University Parks. Overlapping with this is Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour’s production of Julius Caesar (pictured), 19-24 July, at Magdalen College School, tickets from £10. Tickets for The Tempest / tickets for Julius Caesar.

Garsington Opera, High Wycombe

As of the beginning of June, Garsington Opera’s summer season is underway on the bucolic Wormsley Estate and – be warned – tickets go like gold dust. This year’s schedule sees Orfeo (1 June – 3 July), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (2 June – 20 July), Dvořák’s Rusalka (18 June – 19 July), then The Turn of the Screw is due between 2-18 July, with a smaller run of Dalia on 28-31 July. Tickets and info here.

And finally…

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

It’s further afield, sure, but there’s something just so summer-defining about attending a performance in Regent’s Park. This year, there’s Legally Blonde running until 2 July, a new musical adaptation of 101 Dalmations boasting Warhorse-style puppets (12 July – 28 August), and then Sophocles’ classic tragedy Antigone (3-24 September) for something with a bit more grit. Tickets start from £25.

Looking for more outdoor action? Try these:

9 outdoor cinemas to book now

10 blooming gorgeous local flower farms

11 pretty dog walks with pub pitstops

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