minack-theatre

From clifftops to royal parks, these are eight of the best places to make like the Elizabethans and enjoy in a spot of alfresco theatre this summer. In characteristically British fashion, the show tends to go on come rain or shine – and there’s nothing like a bit of weather-induced pathetic fallacy for added drama.

1. Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Metres away from the original Globe Theatre, the heart of the somewhat seedy entertainment district in the 17th century, this faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse is not only a history lesson but also hosts some of the most exciting productions in London. You may have been forced to reenact Romeo and Juliet on a blustery stage on a school trip way back when, but we recommend revisiting for happier memories.

2. Regents Park Open Air Theatre, London

One of the largest auditoria in London is also the oldest professional outdoor theatre in Britain. Tucked in the middle of Regent’s Park, the iconic playhouse is only open from May through to September. This year, the season combines populist classics with musicals and children’s theatre towards the latter half of the summer. Directed by multiple Olivier Award-winner Timothy Sheader and featuring the English National Opera, their adaption of Henry James’ The Turn of the Shrew is a blissful way to pass a summer evening in the city.

3. Minack Theatre, Cornwall

It doesn’t get much better than drinking rosé while watching Macbeth against the backdrop of Atlantic Ocean. Perched high above a gully with a rocky outcrop and seagulls swopping overhead, the Minack is a quintessentially British endeavour. Surrounded by glorious gardens with a panoramic view of the Cornish seas, every year the theatre puts on a full programme of drama, musicals, opera, comedy and story-telling. This year, the one to watch is Jessica Swale’s adaption of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

4. Hever Festival Theatre, Kent

Set among the magnificent gardens of Hever Castle, this theatre celebrates history and the arts with shows to suit all ages. The top billing for 2018 is West End hit One Man, Two Guvnors, though our inner children are eyeing up an alfresco Peter Pan. Pack a picnic and head to the Two Sister’s Lawn Garden for an aperitif to start things right. With both matinee and evening performances, choose between working on your tan or cosying up in a blanket, safe in the knowledge that there are awnings if necessary.

5. Woburn Estate, Bedfordshire

For one night only, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men bring you an all-male performance of The Tempest in the striking gardens of Woburn Estate. Throughout the summer, this historic house on the border of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire offers a myriad of events, including aviation shows and gardening workshops. But The Tempest is one of the finest on the programme, retelling the Shakespearean tale of the Duke of Milan exiled onto a mystical island where he is left to brood with his daughter Miranda. Guests enjoy the performance from the lawn, so pack a blanket for grass-stain-free lounging. The show is also available at Chatsworth House.

6. Beaulieu Abbey, Brockenhurst

In cloisters of Beaulieu Abbey an open-air production delivered by the prestigious Castle Theatre Company from the University of Durham presents one of Shakespeare’s wittiest comedies, Twelfth Night. For three evenings during mid-July, this classic tale of love and confusion can be enjoyed from the grounds of the 13th-century Cistercian Abbey. The setting eludes a rustic elegance of ruins and gardens, which assemble to create a glorious backdrop transporting you into Shakespearean epoch.

7. Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Situated in tranquil parkland with panoramic views of Hatfield House, Chapterhouse Theatre Company offers guests a trip down the rabbit hole to peak at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Vivacious with original music and colourful characters, and located in a naturally shaped grass bowl known as the Elephant Dell, this lively performance is presented in beautiful Victorian costume. Later in the summer, performances include Robin Hood and His Merry Men, The Importance of Being Earnest and Treasure Island.

8. Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Holkham Hall is perhaps the greatest summer spot to watch contemporary comedy and drama in an outdoor environment. Welcoming renowned theatre companies, expect nostalgic showings of The Railway Children and The Adventures of Dr Dolittle alongside Shakespearean classics. Pairing the grandeur of an impressive 18th-century stately home with theatre for the entire family, go for lunch at The Victoria then head to the nearby beach (featured in Shakespeare in Love) for a something-for-everyone day out.

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