Like food and music, there’s something special about open air theatre – Gay Pirrie-Weir shares the wide range of this summer’s outdoor performances.
THERE are more chances than ever before to enjoy a show in the open air this summer, as familiar and new companies tour classics, fresh adaptations and new shows to gardens, village greens and interesting venues all around the area.
It’s even worth planning to travel a little further from home to see some of the events on offer, packing up your folding chairs and picnics and encamping for a night of drama, comedy, colour, music and inventive fun.
Several of the regular touring companies have included ‘family friendly’ shows for summer 2022, aimed specifically at younger audiences. The schedules also include performances of Shakespeare and other classics, performed in the alfresco style that makes a perfect introduction to live theatre, in a more relaxed
How about introducing young theatre-goers to its joys in summer at an open air show as well as in winter at the pantomime?
Something for everyone
This season in our area, 13 companies are offering a total of 24 shows from May through to September. Some of the settings are so spectacular that it’s worth making a special journey. Some might be on a field in a nearby village, and some will be in walled gardens, natural amphitheatres and gardens of large houses near where you live.
You can choose between a whole range of styles from broad comedy to classic storytelling, performed by small(ish) companies sometimes on bicycles, sometimes all female or all male, some with an emphasis
on music, some on clowning. Or just take a chance…
The first show of the season in our area comes from Illyria, whose Peter Pan will be in the ECOS Amphitheatre at Frome on 29th May, and also at Sherborne Castle Gardens (17 June), the dramatic Corfe Castle (4 August) and Kingstone Lacy (18 August).
The company has three shows on tour this summer, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Pirates of Penzance both at ECOS and Sherborne Castle Gardens later in the summer.
Lord Chamberlain’s Men
The all-male Lord Chamberlain’s Men, whose music is always a special feature, bring As You Like It to Salisbury Cathedral Close on 10th and 11th June, the new venue Octagon in the Country Park on 29 June, Kingston Lacy near Wimborne on 28 July and Breamore House on 27 August.
Chapterhouse is touring Cinderella (Corfe Castle 28 July), Romeo and Juliet (Holme for Gardens Wareham 7 July) and Pride and Prejudice (Kingston Lacy 12 August, Yeovil Country Park 27 August).
Festival Players have chosen A Midsummer Night’s Dream, coming to Halstock on 10 June, Shaftesbury Abbey on 25 June and the beautiful Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, 18 August.
Folksy Theatre is touring Much Ado About Nothing (12 August) and Alice in Wonderland (6 August) to Holme for Gardens near Wareham. Alice will also be performed at the amphitheatre by the Marine in Lyme Regis on
The Handlebards, travelling from venue to venue on their bikes, perform Twelfth Night at Maumbury Rings in Dorchester (19 June).
Heartbreak Productions, with the longest tour of three shows, all through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, performing Jane Eyre, Awful Auntie and Much Ado About Murder. They are at Wells Bishop’s Palace with Jane Eyre (11 August), Awful Auntie at Maumbury Rings on 13 August and Much Ado About Murder at
Holme for Gardens on 9 June and Athelhampton House on 21 July.
Pantaloons come to Montacute House with The War of the Worlds on 25 June and Much Ado About Nothing on 1 July.
Quantum Theatre is touring The Reluctant Dragon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tale of Peter Rabbit, coming to Salisbury Cathedral Close (RD 16 August – PR 17 August), Brympton D’Evercy (MND and PR 26 June).
Rain or Shine
The Recruiting Officer, performed dashingly by Rain or Shine, is at Salisbury on 17 June, Holme for Gardens on 23 June, and Beaminster Manor on 26 June.
The ever-enjoyable Rude Mechanicals always tour a new show, and this year’s is God and Dogs, a comic dystopian allegory set in 2084. See it at East Farm Tarrant Monkton on 20 July, the village hall field at Stourpaine on 21 July, Mill Farm at Bradford Abbas on 22 July or Child Okeford recreation ground on 23 July.
Slapstick Picnic performs The Importance of Being Earnest, with tea, at Lyme Regis Marine on 15 July.
Three Inch Fools
Three Inch Fools, another company whose shows have lots of music, bring Twelfth Night to Corfe Castle on 11 August, Stourhead on 12 and 26 August and Higher Orchard at Sandford Orcas on 21 August. Their second show of 2022, The Gunpowder Plot, is at Stourhead on 13 and 27 August and Corfe Castle on 18 August.
Local company Sisata are touring Wuthering Heights this summer, with numerous dates across the county: Museum of East Dorset in Wimborne on 16 July, Sandsfoot Castle Weymouth on 22 July, Maumbury Rings Dorchester on 29 July, and then back to close their season at the Lighthouse poole on 15 & 16 September.
Dates and times can change, and new dates may be added. Always check the company or the venue websites for more details – book early and hope that the weather gods cast a kindly eye on the night you have chosen.
by Gay Pirrie-Weir