Summer is almost upon us and London’s outdoor theatres are open for the year. Andrzej Lukowski rounds up the open-air experiences you shouldn’t miss this season.
See a midnight show at Shakespeare’s Globe
Every year, the casts of the Globe’s main shows are somehow coaxed into a one-off performance that kicks off at 11.59pm, aka the Midnight Matinees. It is, naturally, perfectly reasonable – nay, advisable – to have a few jars first, and bacon sarnies are served after. This season’s shows are ‘Richard II’ (July 25), ‘As You Like It’ (August 14) and ‘Much Ado Nothing’ (September 11).
Gawp at four flying Frida Kahlos
Seriously: the centrepiece of this year’s Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is ‘The Four Fridas’, a spectacular show for audiences of up to 3,000, which brings together a host of the best aerialists, dancers and more to create an enormous spectacular in which the great artist Kahlo’s paintings will appear to take flight through the sky (Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich, July 1-4). We don’t really understand it either, but it sounds good, yeah?
Picnic on the Regent’s Park Theatre lawn
Traditionally, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has a gritty season opener – this year’s is a ‘dark’ take on ‘Peter Pan’ (until June 14) – but a visit to the stunning venue is always supernaturally lovely. And if you want to make your night as enchanting as humanly possible you can pre-order a picnic for two: £45 standard or £80 for the champagne version.
Visit a banned nineteenth-century fair
Referenced fondly by Charles Dickens, the Greenwich Fair was a lusty affair, banned in 1857 for excessive bawdiness. Four years ago it was resurrected, and while the odds of 200,000 drunk Victorians turning up are now low, it’s a great couple of days of oddball free street theatre (Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, June 27 and 28).
Go giant squid hunting in Hammersmith
The Lyric Hammersmith’s Theatre in the Square programme of eccentric outdoor shows is back next month. First is ‘Monotone Man’ (June 16 and 17), an ‘interactive celebration of colour’; then ‘Citizen Squid’ (June 23 and 24), a piece of political puppetry about a giant squid in need of a new home.
Something no doubt fabulous outside the NT
Er, okay, we don’t know what this is, because it hasn’t been announced yet. But our National Theatre mole tells us that the new Riverside Square ‘will come alive at weekends with music and performance for all ages’ from late July to the end of August.
Watch a comedy and a tragedy for free
The More London Free Festival returns to outdoor amphitheatre The Scoop – nestled under Tower Bridge – for its usual, reliable season and a three-week run (August 5-30) for two short plays – tragedy ‘Hecuba The Trojan Women’ on from 8pm and family comedy ‘Captain Showoff!’ that runs in the early evening.
See an opera under starslight
Screw Glyndebourne: London’s own Opera Holland Park costs about a third as much, and has more than enough charm to compensate for any drop-off in fanciness. The highlight this year is the return of Will Todd’s acclaimed ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (July 7-August 1) – back for the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s beloved book.
Go back in time on a glamorous jetty
The Jetty, a stylishly ramshackle venue on an old Greenwich wharf, reopens for 2015 with an array of alfresco food and boozing opportunities, plus ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, an immersive show staged in a set of old cargo containers.
Find out more about outdoor theatre in London.