Open air plays

OPEN air touring companies have chosen and cast their plays and are keeping fingers tightly crossed for a warm and sunny summer, with little or no rain or wind.
Once again they will be criss-crossing the country performing Shakespeare, various classic plays and some original works.

In the wider south and west region there will be 140 performances – and that’s only those announced up to now.  Other smaller companies usually turn up during the summer months.

Chapterhouse Theatre is not only first alphabetically, but always tours the greatest number of plays, with six companies weaving their way around the UK and further afield. They will be touring A Mid­summer Night’s Dream, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Little Women, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Sense and Sensibility and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  Fans will spot that some of these are repeats of previous productions.

For full details, visit their website,

The Festival Players have a regular date in Beaminster, where one of their founders now lives and welcomes them to her garden every year. This year’s play is Shake­s­peare­­’s The Winter’s Tale.

For more information, visit

New(ish) kid on the block is Folksy Theatre, this year touring Love’s Labours Lost and The Princess and the Giant – Shakespeare’s bitter sweet play ideal for the suffragette year, and one for the younger audiences.  Find out more about the company and the shows by visiting


The double unique aspect of the Handlebards is that they travel from venue to venue on bicycles, and there are two troups – one female and one male. This year the men will perform Twelfth Night, and the women tackle Romeo and Juliet.

Their tours are more predictable than most, because of the wheels … none of that Christchurch – Wigan – Weymouth stuff that some companies seem to endure.

For details of their route, visit

Stalwarts Illyria have four shows on tour in 2018 – The Adventures of Doctor Doolittle, The Merchant of Venice, The Pirates of Penzance and The Hound of the Basker­villes – really something for all tastes. Dr Doolittle starts its UK tour at the ECOS Amphitheatre at Frome Merlin on 27th May, and the Pirates begin their merry japes at Corfe Castle on Friday 13th July.

For full details of the tours, visit

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men do it Shakespeare’s way.  The all-male troupe this year takes on The Tempest, opening at Glastonbury Abbey on 2nd June.

For more information, the website is (a note to readers.  One of their new venues this year is listed on the website as Gatcombe Park. For those unfamiliar with Portsmouth suburbs, it is NOT Princess Anne’s home in the Cotswolds.)

The Cornish based Miracle Theatre always brings interesting adaptations out for its summer tour, and this year it is a Mira­culous version of The Cherry Orchard, which, remember, was described by Chekov as a comedy. We may yet see it as it was intended, on its tour, full details of which can be found at

The Pantaloons have two shows for 2018, The Importance of Being Earnest and As You Like it.  Find out more on their website,

The clue’s in the name for Rain or Shine, a company that performs in the open air no matter what the Weather G ods may be throwing down.Their choice this year is Shakes­peare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing.

For details of all their performances, visit

Next comes the Rude Mechanicals, the troupe that performs original shows in commedia dell’arte style. They have a huge and eager following across the region.

This year’s show is Oberon’s Cure, and until it opens  at the Square and Compass at Worth Matravers on 14th June, it is a mystery.  Find out more on line at

And last but not least, the latest addition to the touring menu, Three Inch Fools is a touring company taking a musical approach to performing Shakes­peare.

For three months they will be visiting National Trust and English Heritage properties and other venues around the country, and their tour ends in August with five performances in the south west.

The five-strong troupe is equipped with all manner of music al instruments, on which they accompany an imaginative musical take on Shakespeare’s plays. They perform in almost any kind of setting, both indoors and outdoors.This year’s plays are A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet.

See them in The Dream at Parade Gardens in Bath on 14th August and Old Sarum, Salisbury, the following night.  Hamlet is performed at Highcliffe Castle on 16th August, Dunster Castle on 18th and at Mapperton in West Dorset on 19th August.All performances start at 7pm.

For more information, visit the website,


And keep an eye on the FTR Arts Diary for more details of the individual dates.