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Summer’s best outdoor theatre

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

I’m writing a post on outdoor theatre, so I expect it to pelt down with rain any minute. 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…


Creation Theatre, Oxford

man holding suitcases girls on his back holding umbrella

The quirky Oxford theatre company has two cracking outdoor shows this summer. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (5 July – 5 August) is a return for last year’s sell-out, interactive Shakespeare show. Part treasure hunt part play, it requires the audience to meet in small groups at a secret city centre location and follow clues… Alternatively you can fall down a rabbit hole in the green gorgeousness of University Parks for a family-friendly production of Alice (15 July – 19 August).


Waterperry Gardens, Waterperry, Bucks

outdoor stone auditorium

We’d be happy to watch paint dry at the lovely stone amphitheatre nestled in Waterperry’s tranquil gardens. Luckily however, there’s a more stimulating programme on offer this somewhere. Local favourites Opera Anywhere are, frankly, everywhere with The Pirates of Penzance (7 July), HMS Pinafore (8 July), The Mikado (9 July) and The Leading Ladies (also 9 July). And there’s also one for the little ‘uns – The Wind In The Willows (12 Aug).


Cliveden House, Taplow, Berks

grand white Manor House purple flowers garden

Surroundings rarely come more rarefied than Cliveden House and its glorious gardens. This summer’s Heartbreak theatre troupe’s adaptation of David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy (27 July) is sold out, so you’ll have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket. However, you can still catch The Secret Garden (24 Aug), based on the children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett or a new take on Pride and Prejudice (25 & 26 Aug). Here’s hoping Mr Darcy emerges, wet of shirt, from the swimming pool.


West Wycombe Park, West Wycombe, Bucks

audience watching outdoor theatre performance in deck chairs

Shakespeare and classic romance are on the programme in these Bucks National Trust gardens, with two Chapterhouse Theatre productions this summer: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (20 July) and The Comedy of Errors (16 Aug).


Pendley Manor, Tring, Herts

actors in field at night performing

Just across the border to Pendley Manor in Herts and its al fresco Shakespeare shows, both of which explore relationships. Love is in the air with Romeo and Juliet (2-6 Aug), while, erm, hate is more prevalent in The Taming Of The Shrew (9-13 Aug).


Claydon House, Aylesbury Vale, Bucks

grey stone building blue skies

Be quick – this one is this Saturday. Chapterhouse Theatre present Dickens’ classic Great Expectations (1 July) on the West Terrace on the National Trust property, in surroundings that are a very long way from grimy Victorian London.


Oxford Castle, Oxford

blacka nd white romeo Juliet kiss

Sure to be popular, Tomahawk Theatre are mixing it up, throwing in a bit of song and dance but sticking to Shakespeare’s original language for their latest production of Romeo and Juliet. Get there early – it’s first come for seating; all with the stunning background of Oxford Castle. Runs til 29 July.


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

jesus christ superstar production regents park

It involves trekking up to the smoke, but it’s absolutely worth it for an evening at this picturesque fairy-light strewn theatre, which is the big daddy of al fresco productions – and the London Theatre Of The Year in 2016’s The Stage awards, no less. This summer’s extensive programme includes A Tale of Two Cities (7 July – 5 August), a brand new adaptation of the Dickens tome that’s alarmingly topical once again. Then there’s a family-friendly Oliver Twist (17 July – 5 Aug) suitable for children age 6+. Finally, bring out the big guns: namely, the Olivier and Evening Standard award-winning Jesus Christ Superstar (11 August 2017 – 23 September 2017), by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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



1 comment on “Summer’s best outdoor theatre”

  • Anthea Douglas July 4, 2017

    Went to a fantastic production of Cosi Van Tutti recently at the stunning Waterperry open air theatre. The gardens were a perfect setting for our interval picnic and cushions were available for extra-comfortable seating. Oh by the way, it’s wrongly named amphitheatre which would be more like a stadium, (e.g. where the ancient Romans watched gladiatorial contests etc). It’s modelled on a Greek theatre, same proportions etc. This really is a space to watch in the future. Absolutely beautiful and great acoustic.


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