Plays en plein air

THE value of open air theatre was never felt more keenly than in the early days of the pandemic, when indoor gatherings (unless you lived or worked in Downing Street) were prohibited.

The many companies whose tours have been a regular feature of the summer months have built on that increased popularity, planning and announcing their 2022 programmes earlier than usual. This means that audiences can book tickets and enjoy that peculiarly British tradition of taking (ever grander) picnics and sitting in the cold, and often drizzle, watching costumed actors strut their stuff on the green sward of village greens, or, better still great estates with stately homes as backdrops.

As of 28th April, there are 15 companies which have announced touring schedules, though new dates will probably be added in the coming weeks. In addition, Shakespeare’s Globe is touring a production of Julius Caesar around the UK with are four dates in the south west.

As always, William Shakespeare is an important feature of the summer tours, and these productions are often the way younger audiences are introduced to the Bard on stage.  This year there are three Midsummer Night’s Dreams and three Twelfth Nights, two Much Ado About Nothings, along with a Romeo and Juliet, an As You Like It  and a King Lear.

Then there are adaptations of classic novels – Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland, Jayne Eyre, Peter Pan and Peter Rabbit. There are three entirely original shows, and new versions of familiar favourites.

Some of the shows are aimed at younger and family audiences, with others more suitable for a grown-up evening outing with friends.  There really is something for everyone.

With audiences growing in confidence again, and masks no longer mandatory, the chance of seeing a play in the fresh air is more appealing than ever, and tickets will sell out fast.

So visit the various company’s websites to see what best suits your tastes and your schedule, and book early.

Here is a very basic list of who is touring what. Visit the Arts Diary for more details, and look out for previews on the FTR as soon as images are available.

Bash Street Theatre – The Cameraman.
Chapterhouse Theatre – Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet.
Festival Players – A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Folksy Theatre – Alice in Wonderland, Much Ado About Nothing.
Handlebards – Twelfth Night.
Heartbreak Productions – Awful Auntie, Jane Eyre, Much Ado About Murder, Twelfth Night.
Illyria – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter Pan, The Pirates of Penzance.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men – As You Like It.
Miracle Theatre – Everyman, King Lear.
The Pantaloons – Much Ado About Nothing, The War of the Worlds.
Quantum Theatre – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter Rabbit, The Reluctant Dragon.
Rain or Shine – The Recruiting Officer.
The Rude Mechanicals – Gods and Dogs.
Slapstick Picnic – The Importance of Being Earnest.
Three Inch Fools – The Gunpowder Plot, Twelfth Night.