The British summer may be blighted by hay-fever, school holidays and the occasional outbreak of actual sun, but one thing it's genuinely got going for it the presence of actual, honest-to-god, properly good free theatre shows, which is certainly not something you'll get during colder months. Here's five unmissable shows and festivals this summer.
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival
This street-theatre extravaganza is almost completely free – there's a production of 'A View from the Bridge' (Thu Jun 22-Sat Jun 24) on the Greenwich Peninsular you'll have to pay a small amount for – with the big, outdoor, late night extravaganzas forming the lion's share of the action. Pay particular attention to 'FierS à Cheval' (Fri Jun 23), in which glowing white 'horses' will parade through the streets of Greenwich, and 'Museum of the Moon' (Fri Jun 23-Sun Jun 25) which will illuminate Greenwich Park with a big, silvery glowing artificial moon.
West End Live
The one weekend of the year when the West End's musicals all become (sort of) free, as Westminster Council digs deep to stage two days of performances from all the West End's biggest hits on a free stage in Trafalgar Square. Stay tuned for excerpts from 'Les Mis' and 'Phantom' to newbies like 'Bat Out of Hell – The Musical'.
Lyric in the Square
Now halfway through its annual run, there's two weeks left to catch the Lyric Hammersmith's programme of oddball outdoor theatre that takes place in the square outside the theatre. This week sees Far from the Norm's multi-genre hip-hop show 'Da Native', and next week it's a dance showcase.
The National Theatre's outdoor riverside space will once again host a special mini-festival over five weekends July and August, each one with a different curator. This year it's east London's drag-tastic party-starters The Glory (Jul 28-30), hip Manchester arts venue HOME (Aug 4-6), world music festival WOMAD (Aug 11-13), dance company Rambert (Aug 18-20) and finally the National Theatre itself (Aug 25-28).
The Scoop amphitheatre next to Tower Bridge continues its annual tradition of giving absurdly good value for money with a three-part, four hour, completely free adaptation of Homer's derring do filled epic poem. As is the norm, part one of the nightly trilogy is aimed at families, while parts two and three explored more adult themes.