Thirty plays from 21 companies in the open-air this summer

Sun and Moon The Winter’s Tale

Rude Mechanicals The Dressing Book

IT’S hard to imagine sitting in the open air on a balmy summer’s evening after the winter and spring we have had, but that clearly hasn’t deterred any of the touring theatre companies from planning a 2024 season full of delights to suit all ages and most tastes.

The post-COVID doldrums have receded, and new companies are springing up to join the old faithful providers of alfresco theatrical fun. Among the 30 plays due to tour (mainly from June to early September,) this year’s favourite play is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with five productions on tour from well-established Chapterhouse, relative newcomers 404 Theatre, Immersion Theatre, Troubadour Stageworks and the cycling Handlebards. It will be the Dream, but not as we know, it from 404, whose four actors will be performing the story of Titania and Oberon and the Grecian lovers, much abridged, as half of a double bill with Twelfth Night, at seven venues around the region.

Chapterhouse A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare’s As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors and Wilde’s The Importance of Begin Earnest, all ideal for an outdoor setting, each have two touring productions this summer. Duke’s Theatre and Folksy will be in the Forest of Arden, and Handlebards and Three Inch Fools both perform The Comedy of Errors. The “handbag play” will be on tour with Pantaloons and the clue-in-the-name company Rain or Shine.

Miracle Love Riot

There are eight original plays on the circuit this year. The always-enjoyable Rude Mechanicals are touring The Dressing Book, performed in their signature commedia dell’arte whiteface style. Folksy Theatre has devised Angelika Sprocket’s Pockets for its younger audiences and The Last Baguette has also concentrated on the children, with two new shows, A Woodland Wonder in May and Pie-Rat Island – a Journey on the High Seas in June. There is also a maritime theme in Paddleboat Theatre’s Stories from the Sea, aimed at family audiences.

South-west based Miracle Theatre makes a welcome return to touring this summer with a new show, Love Riot. Musical troubadours Three Inch Fools will be introducing audiences to a new version of the much-told story of Henry VIII, opening his Secret Diary full of songs, liaisons and escapades. Calf2Cow Theatre takes a site-specific look at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective in Sherlock and Watson: A Murder in the Garden.

Illyria The Gondoliers

Paddleboat Theatre getting ready for Stories from the Sea

Other Shakespeare plays on tour are Hamlet with the all-male Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Illyria in Romeo and Juliet, Pantaloons in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Festival Players in The Tempest, Sun & Moon Theatre in The Winters Tale and 404 Theatre in the abridged Twelfth Night (see above).

Chapterhouse, which has 17 dates across the south and west region, is also touring Beauty and the Beast, Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. Illyria, the busiest and now biggest of the touring companies, has 57 performances scheduled, and the productions include The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle, The Gondoliers and The Hound of the Baskervilles.


Three Inch Fools in 2023

Folksy’s third show of the season is Alice in Wonderland. Quantum brings an adaptation of Dickens’s Great Expectations, Immersion Theatre is touring Peter Pan and the Pantaloons have the ever-popular Peter Pan. Newcomers Plandits Theatre will tour The Secret Garden, another show ideal for an open air setting. Quantum Theatre’s family show is The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck, an adaptation of the Beatrix Potter classic.

For full details of venues, dates and times, visit each company’s website (see below), or visit the Arts Diary-June On in the Fine Times Recorder, where all currently-notified dates are included.


Folksy in Alice in Wonderland

Get your picnics ready and keep your fingers crossed that the weather gods have already had their fun for this year, and the summer will be warm and dry.

Handlebards Comedy of Errors






Here are the contacts:

Quantum Great Expectations  (The Lord Chamberlain’s Men)

Quantum The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck  (new website address)