New outdoor shows for Artsreach

THE summer 2022 programme for Artsreach, Dorset’s rural touring charity, brings some new names to the local outdoor theatre scene, including the hilarious Three Inch Fools, who delighted audiences at Stourhead last year, and open air circus company Brainfools.

The summer programme, running from May to August features 11 productions visiting 14 communities, offering from Shakespeare to poetry in the pub, comic dance theatre to grand opera.

The season starts with a visit by the established dance theatre company New Art Club, who have been touring internationally and to critical acclaim since 1998. Their work has been translated into French and Mandarin, and they’ve performed in venues as diverse as the Royal Opera House, Wembley Stadium and village halls! They will be performing their latest dance theatre comedy show, Cupid’s Revenge.

Following last summer’s popular Artsreach performance of Henry V, Festival Players return for one night this summer. As in the Bard’s day, Festival Players tour as an all-male troupe of skilled professional actors – join them for an evening of colour, poetry, and magical mayhemas they bring Shakespeare’s much-loved fantasy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Dorset.

Somerset based Wassail theatre company brings its magical non-verbal open air drama, Whispering Willows, to the stunning setting of Springhead Gardens, Fontmell Magna. As the chaos of the Second World War and the invention of plastic threaten to destroy his farm and livelihood, can Morris find a new use for willow before it’s too late? This beautiful story is suitable for all the family, and features puppets crafted from Somerset willow plus an evocative, original soundtrack.

The INN Crowd continues to bring professional performers to rural pubs this summer. John Osborne comes to Dorset with A Supermarket Love Story. A Radio 4 regular and creator of John Peel’s Shed, John Osborne weaves words to create wonderful worlds out of the most ordinary of situations. He will be performing in two rural Dorset pubs this summer.

Since 1992, the annual West Country tour by students from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School has been a highlight of the Artsreach summer programme. Opened in 1946 by Laurence Olivier, the school has a reputation for attracting the best in young acting and back stage talent – notable alumni to its name include Daniel Day Lewis, Greta Scacchi, Peter O’Toole and Olivia Colman. This summer the theatre schools are touring with two productions, Great Expectations and Vanity Fair.

Leading fringe opera company, Regents Opera, will present their outstanding production of Bizet’s popular Carmen just once in Dorset. Directed by Paul Higgins of Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the Royal Opera House, this production has a cast of four with the Greek mezzo soprano Kassandra Dimopoulou as Carmen and Howard Hutt as Don Jose. The accompanist and musical director is Ben Woodward.

With the rhythmic sounds of fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar and double bass, Old Baby Mackerel are sure to get knees bouncing and elbows swinging to the virtuosic sound of blistering solos and sweet harmonies with their high-energy, foot-stomping Bluegrass.

There’s more fun and laughter in the open air when LAStheatre invites you to clap your pans for The Rascally Diner! This silly, song-filled show, for everybody aged five and upwards, explores food provenance, sustainability, and healthy eating. Come along and cook up a stink as part of Rufus Skumskins O’Parsley’s kitchen crew or bring a pot to bang and ward off evil cakes in this fun-filled, messy performance about food!

Circus skills are centre stage as two graduates of the National Centre for Circus Arts lead a cast of seven performing daring aerials and acrobatic feats in Lucky Pigeons. The Brainfools show is packed with a mix of absurd and extravagant theatre, impressive acrobatics, empathetic and funny stories and a pinch of satirical spice and puppetry that’s suitable for all the family.

Three Inch Fools are dusting down their instruments and hitting the road this summer with Shakespeare’s riotous comedy, Twelfth Night. They are making their Artsreach debut, promising an open-air evening of mischief and hilarity as five versatile actor-musicians present an inventive take on the story of Viola and Orsino and Olivia and Malvolio.

Artsreach co-director Yvonne Gallimore says the summer programme offers lots of opportunities for family and friends to get together and “enjoy something special.”

Copies of the full Artsreach programme are available at tourist information centres and libraries across the county or visit

Pictured: Wassail Theatre’s Whispering Willows. photograph Paul Blakemore, LAStheatre’s The Rascally Diner, photograph © Alex Brenner, bluegrass band Old Baby Mackerel.