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Keep it fresh! Best local outdoor theatre

Picnic hampers and fold-up chairs at the ready: it’s outdoor theatre season! You’ve got your pick this year, from kid-pleasing comedy to gritty classics. Here are the best to book now.

Abbey Ruins, Reading

If you’re looking for a backdrop that atmospheric, dramatic and nails the period brief, the Reading’s Abbey Ruins – originally founded by Henry I in 1112– is it. Outdoor theatre has been performed here since extensive conservation work completed. This year, Progress Theatre’s open-air production takes a break from Shakespeare with a new, faithful, and fast-paced adaptation for the Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations (20-30 July..

Welford Park, Wickham

Welford Park West Berkshire GBBO tent

The OG Great British Bake Off tent location, and a pretty dramatic location for The Watermill Theatre’s latest touring production. Camp Albion is a new play with music set in 1996 Newbury – at the height of the division over the proposed Newbury Bypass. In a time before smartphones, Twitter, Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, the ‘Third Battle of Newbury’ was one of the definitive environmental campaigns of the 1990s. Will Swampy make an appearance? Check all trees. Ticket price includes BBQ, a hot drink and reserved picnic table. No alcohol permitted.

Stubbings, Maidenhead

Stubbings cinema

Something wicked this way comes… and it’s not a hoody wearing yoof giving you attitude. The Garden Players will perform Shakespeare’s Macbeth  when they return to Stubbings (14-18 June) spilling more blood, violence and trouble than a meeting about the latest Tory Party scandal. If you love your theatre dark and dramatic, it’s an edge-of-your-seat stuff must-see.

Shaw House, Newbury

Shaw House

Immersion Theatre is a multi-award-winning company taking a few productions outside this summer – and they’re making a couple of stops at the historic Shaw House in Newbury. Starting with an evening performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing on 23 Jul (tickets from £9). Followed by family favourite Rapunzel on 17 Aug (tickets from £9).

South Hill Park, Bracknell

the-handlebards-twelfth-night

Muddy Award winning South Hill Park is a hidden Berkshire gem – a grand design with stunning gardens and an amphitheatre for a summer season of outdoor theatre. First up is Twelfth Night (14 June) performed by The Handlebards – a group of cycling actors who pedal accessible Shakespeare plays across the UK. Then on the 26 June Quantom Theatre hop into action with family-friendly afternoon performances of The Tales of Peter Rabbit. Don;t forget to pack a brolly, pac-a-mac and a blanket.

Savill Gardens, Windsor Great Park

Savill Garden Windsor

Savill Garden is one the prettiest theatrical backdrops for a romantic story or two people born on different sides of the tracks. Intrigued? First up Cinderella – glass slippers, footman and pumpkin coach all provided by The Queen (she’s all partied out) on 28 Aug. Then it’s Shakespearean favourite Romeo & Juliet (29 Aug). There’s also an Abba tribute band on 27 Aug, no drama (unless there’s a backstage bust up), but will be fun. You might want to take antihistamine, it’s gonna play havoc with your hay fever.

Stonor Park, near Henley-on-Thames

Just one piece of open air theatre coming to Stonor this year, but it’s a good’un. The all-male company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men are putting on As You Like It on 9 June (also on at Waddesdon, as covered above) just as it would have been in Shakespeare’s day: with Elizabethan costumes, in the open air, and all played by men. The gorgeous parkland and statement stately home make a dreamy backdrop. £10 for a child and £17 for an adult, book here.

Garsington Opera, High Wycombe

As of the beginning of June, Garsington Opera’s summer season is underway on the bucolic Wormsley Estate and – be warned – tickets go like gold dust. This year’s schedule sees Orfeo (1 June – 3 July), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (2 June – 20 July), Dvořák’s Rusalka (18 June – 19 July), then The Turn of the Screwis due between 2-18 July, with a smaller run of Dalia on 28-31 July. Tickets and info here.

And finally…

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London

Regents Park Outdoor Theatre Legally Blonde

It’s further afield, sure, but there’s something just so summer-defining about attending a performance in Regent’s Park. This year, there’s Legally Blonde running until 2 July, a new musical adaptation of 101 Dalmations boasting Warhorse-style puppets (12 July – 28 August), and then Sophocles’ classic tragedy Antigone (3-24 September) for something with a bit more grit. Tickets start from £25.

Looking for more outdoor action? Try these:

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