The Best Open-Air Theatres In The UK
Hever Festival Theatre
Set on the Two Sisters Lawn in the gardens of Hever Castle, the Hever Castle’s annual summer open-air theatre is surrounded by sprawling flowerbeds, a vast pond and ornamental trees. It hosts a number of different shows, from West End performances to films, family shows and musical acts. Last year’s top-billed performance was West End hit One Man, Two Guvnors, and this year is the Alan Ayckbourn classic, Round and Round the Garden. With both matinee and evening performances, choose between an afternoon in the sun or an evening under the stars – and bring a picnic along for when you get peckish.
In the summer months, the Minack Theatre is where you need to go to get a slice of great British culture. Perched high up on the Cornish cliffs and surrounded by gorgeous gardens, the Minack has a breathtaking backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Every year the theatre puts on a wide variety of shows, from dramas to musicals, operas to comedy – this year sees the likes of Ali Baba and the Forty Theives, Romeo and Juliet and I, Don Quixote. Head on down to watch one of these stunning shows in the sunshine with a crisp white wine in hand – heaven.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Not only is Regent’s Park’s theatre the largest in London, but it’s also the oldest outdoor theatre in the country. Tucked away right in the centre of Regent’s Park, the stage is only open from May to September, but they put on plenty of great shows in that time – this year sees Engelbert Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita and the Shakespearean classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream brought to life. Plus, they also showcase comedy, films and music evenings, too.
Every year for the last 30 years, in the cloisters of Beaulieu Abbey, the Castle Theatre Company from the University of Durham perform an open-air Shakespeare production. This year, the comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, is being acted out over two evenings in mid-July. This charming story is set among the ruins and of the 13th-century Abbey – there really is no better backdrop for a Shakespeare play.
Just mere steps away from where the original Globe Theatre once sat, this reconstruction created by actor and director Sam Wanamaker, which opened in 1997, remains faithful to the structure of the first open-air playhouse that was favoured by William Shakespeare and destroyed by a fire in 1613. These professional performances of the likes of Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It and, this year, Henry IV, parts one and two, you’ll fall in love with the work of the world’s greatest playwright all over again.
Chapterhouse Theatre Company
If you’re determined to head to an outdoor theatre but don’t live in an area that’s likely to have one, fear not – the Chapterhouse Theatre Company host a wide range of different plays, all performed at various outdoor locations in the UK. Whether you’re in Bristol or Salisbury, Dublin or Rochester, there are shows in even the quietest corners of the country. This year they have a wide range of performances to choose from, with The Secret Garden, Treasure Island and Wuthering Heights all on the bill.
National Trust Locations
As if the National Trust couldn’t get any better, many of their locations across the UK put on open-air theatre performances with the beautiful backdrop of historic gardens or ancient buildings. And there’s plenty to choose from – whether it’s Wuthering Heights at Dunster Castle, Alice in Wonderland at Smallhythe Place, or Wind in the Willows at Scotney Castle. It’s just another reason to sign up for annual membership.
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