From established outdoor theatres such as the Open Air and Shakespeare’s Globe, to promenade performances through the streets and parks of London, theatre en plein air in the capital is a breath of fresh air. Of course, being the UK, a pack-a-mac might come in handy, but not even a downpour could sully the experience offered by London’s hardy theatre community this summer. Caroline Bishop takes a look at the classical, experimental and downright farcical plays embracing the great outdoors in the next couple of months.
Don Juan In Love – The Scoop at More London – 4 August to 5 September
The riverside amphitheatre near City Hall is the beautiful setting for this production of Jose Zorilla’s swashbuckling tale of the devilish Don Juan. Brandishing a smile and a sword, he seduces and murders his way through London until he meets his match in a brave young woman. Expect thrills and spills from the experienced hand of director Phil Wilmott. Best of all, it’s absolutely free.
The Comedy Of Errors / Macbeth – Open Air – until 31 July
The big daddy of London outdoor theatre, the Open Air theatre has been entertaining theatre fans in Regent’s Park every summer since 1932. Pimms, interval jazz and trees rustling in the breeze are the order of the day at this unapologetically genteel venue. Though the season started in May, there’s still time to catch Shakespeare’s raucous farce The Comedy Of Errors, or take the kids to a family-friendly production of Macbeth.
Various – Shakespeare’s Globe – until 3 October
The Kings And Rogues season at the replica Elizabethan theatre is in full swing, with Henry VIII squaring off against Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, while Anne Boleyn makes her presence felt on more than one occasion. Frankly, it’s Bedlam.
The Knowledge Emporium – The Gate Outdoors – 19 July to 1 August
Notting Hill theatre The Gate jumps on the outdoor theatre bandwagon this summer with a new season of contemporary plays staged in and around the borough. The Knowledge Emporium takes participants on a walkabout through the streets of Notting Hill to a sweet shop where money is not needed; buy your humbugs by offering up a piece of knowledge to add to the Big Book Of Everything That We Know. The Knowledge Emporium forms part of the InTransit festival, which also comprises The Gate’s site-specific show Susurrus and a plethora of other outdoor performances.
Othello – Lauderdale House – 10 to 13 August
If you like your theatre to come with a view, a formal terraced garden and a tea lawn, Lauderdale House in Highgate might be just your cup of Earl Grey. As last year, the Grade II listed venue is hosting Veni Vidi theatre company which this summer tackles Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. Murder and revenge have never been so refined.
Various – National Theatre Square2 – until 8 August
The National Theatre’s temporary outdoor space – staged as part of summer festival Watch This Space – once again welcomes theatre companies from all over Europe hoping to entertain Londoners with their innovative, quirky shows. A Polish play about the Bosnian conflict told by people on stilts, a steam-powered production involving pressure cookers and an eclectic show in which people get into boxes are some of the treats in store for the intrepid theatregoer.
The Sirens Of Titan – London Bubble – 24 July to 14 August
Do you know what a chrono-synclastic infundiblum is? No, neither do we. But theatre company London Bubble will attempt to explain – at least, how to pronounce it – when it adapts Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens Of Titan this summer. This promenade performance takes audiences on an interplanetary journey from Earth to Mars, Mercury and finally Titan, where time-travelling gent Winston Niles Rumfoord and his dog Kazak will materialise before your very eyes. If none of this makes sense, just inhale the complementary oxygen and hope for the best.