The UK’s Best Outdoor Shows This Summer

From a clifftop in Cornwall and a castle in Kent to a historic house in Norfolk and a Royal Park in London, there are some great outdoor spots across the country to get your culture fix. Here are 12 of the best alfresco performances to enjoy this summer, come rain or shine – including some the grandchildren will enjoy…
Much Ado About Nothing – The Globe, London

Much Ado About Nothing – The Globe, London

This adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing will transport audiences back to 1940s northern Italy. Following years of war, Leonata and her daughters reopen their battle-scarred palazzo for a celebration to welcome the partisan soldiers back from recent hard-fought victories. But far more exciting is the adjacent plot about young lovers Hero and Claudio and proud singletons Beatrice and Benedick who have their limits tested like never before in a wild mix of games, pranks and mischievous plots.

On now until 23rd October

Visit ShakespearesGlobe.com

Open Air Theatre Series – Bedruthan Hotel, Cornwall

This summer, Bedruthan Hotel in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, will show performances from five different theatre companies on its clifftop stage. Suitable for the whole family, the series starts on Saturday 7th May with a production of David Walliams’ Awful Auntie, followed by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Quantum Theatre on Tuesday 19th July. Other highlights include The Reluctant Dragon (a family-friendly show about St George), Much Ado About Murder (an original period drama mystery) and Rapunzel, a modern take on the fairy tale classic. Visitors can enjoy the beachside drama on garden cushions with hampers full of Cornish treats from the hotel.

7th May-6th August

Visit Bedruthan.com

Legally Blonde – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is showing two new productions this season – 101 Dalmatians (see below) and Legally Blonde, the latter of which is based on Amanda Brown’s 2001 book of the same name. Directed by Lucy Moss, co-writer and director of the musical SIX, the play tells the story of happy-go-lucky college student Elle Woods who is in the ‘perfect’ relationship with her high-achieving boyfriend Warner Huntington III. That is until Warner heads to Harvard Law School and decides that he needs a more 'serious' kind of girlfriend. Dumped, Elle embarks on a drastic plan to win him back but, on the way, she discovers that there's more to love – and herself – than meets the eye. 

13th May-2nd July 

Visit OpenAireTheatre.com

Hever Festival Theatre – Hever Castle, Kent

This summer, Hever Castle is putting on a record number of outdoor performances. The former home of the Boleyn family will stage a new show every few days over the next four months, including family-friendly performances and operas. Highlights include Among the Wolves of Court, a fictional story about Thomas Boleyn, on Saturday 25th June; Bizet’s tragic opera Carmen on Saturday 13th August; and Shakespeare’s comic masterpiece, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on Tuesday 30th August. If you want to make a day of it with the grandchildren, book tickets for Horrible Histories: The Terrible Tudors on Wednesday 24th August. 

28th May-30th August 

Visit HeverFestival.co.uk

Jane Eyre – Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Perched high on the Cornish cliffs and surrounded by gorgeous gardens, the Minack has a breath-taking backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Every year, the theatre puts on a wide variety of shows, from dramas to musicals and, this year, there’s plenty to see, including a production of Jane Eyre. Based on Charlotte Brontë’s seminal novel, the play follows Jane’s journey from orphan to adult. After a painful childhood at the hands of a cruel headmaster, she accepts the position of governess at Thornfield Hall. But when her employer Edward Rochester proposes, she could not have predicted the secrets that unravel on their wedding day…

5th-9th June 

Visit Minack.com

Vanity Fair – Minack Theatre, Cornwall

This new production will be performed by the award-winning Newport Playgoers Society. Based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s 19th-century novel, Vanity Fair follows the life of Becky Sharp, a young woman born with every disadvantage and a firm determination to take Georgian society by storm – no matter what the cost. As Becky climbs the social ranks, pretty and rich Amelia Sedley is sliding inexorably towards ruin. The women’s paths cross and re-cross, but can they save themselves from disaster or will they be each other’s destruction?

3rd-7th July

Visit Minack.com

Minack Theatre, Cornwall

101 Dalmatians – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Suitable for the whole family, this production brings the notorious Cruella de Vil to the stage. When the pampered and glamourous heiress and fashion designer sets her sights on a new Dalmatian fur coat, there’s trouble ahead for Pongo, Perdi and their adorable litter of puppies. Based on the classic story by Dodie Smith set in and around Regent’s Park, this new musical adaptation is full of fun-packed puppetry little ones will love.

12th July-28th August 

Visit OpenAirTheatre.com

River Stage – The National Theatre, London

For the first time since 2019 the National Theatre’s River Stage festival returns to the South Bank this summer. Spread across five weekends, visitors can watch a series of performances from drag artists, dancers and actors, and take part in a variety of family-friendly activities. The full line up is yet to be announced, but we know that visitors will be treated to National Theatre shows on the stage, as well as The Glory from Hackney Empire (15th-17th July), featuring sing and dance-a-longs to celebrate 50 years of Pride.

15th July-14th August 

Visit NationalTheatre.org.uk

Alice Through The Looking Glass – Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Norfolk company Strange Fascination is bringing its whacky open-air production to Holkham Hall for a performance in July. Audiences can watch Alice as she steps through the looking glass back into Wonderland, a world of dreams and fantasies. Here, she finds a whole host of curious creatures, as well as some familiar faces like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Featuring puppetry and catchy songs, grown-ups and little ones alike will love this new production. 

27th July

Visit Holkham.co.uk

A Midsummer Night's Dream – Upton House & Gardens, Warwickshire

Shakespeare’s classic comedy of love and intrigue, magic and mayhem will be performed at National Trust property Upton House in Warwickshire. Set on that most dangerous of nights when fairies are abroad and nothing is as it seems, four young, unsuspecting, lovers become entangled in their magical affray and soon no mortals are safe in those bewitched and bewitching woods outside Athens…

6th August

Visit NationalTrust.org.uk

As You Like It – Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Renowned theatre company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men will perform Shakespeare’s comedy at Holkham Hall this summer – true to how Shakespeare himself would have seen it performed – in the open air, by an all-male cast and with Elizabethan costumes, music and dance. Rosalind and her friend Celia, the noble Orlando, and the usurped Duke Senior and his courtiers are exiled from court and set up new lives in the Forest of Arden. In exile they’re overjoyed as true love and identity are found in the forest. 

24th August 

Visit Holkham.co.uk

Antigone – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Playwright Inua Ellams has taken Sophocles’ epic play into the 21st century. Antigone is about a torn family, a hostile state and one heroic brother. When Creon refuses to bury the body of Antigone's unruly brother, Antigone's anger quickly turns to defiance. Creon condemns her to a torturous death: she's to be buried alive. This is a timeless story about loyalty and truth, about how we make meaning out of life and death, and what in the end really does matter.

3rd-24th September 

Visit OpenAireTheatre.com

101 Dalmatians – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

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