Shakespeare’s Globe, 2024
Photo: David Jensen

Open-air theatre in London

The best open-air and outdoor theatre shows in London this summer

Written by Time Out London theatre in association with FREE NOW
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There’s perhaps nothing more magical than seeing a play or musical in the open air, and London is absolutely the city for it. In defiance of the weather gods, our outdoor theatre season now stretches from March to late October: we’re are just that tough. Or at least, optimistic about the weather.

Substantially it revolves around a few key theatres, notably Shakespeare’s Globe – open March to October and generally boasting a cheeky outdoor Christmas production – and the delightful Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which is open late spring to the end of summer. The former specialises in Shakespeare plays, while the latter has a musical theatre focus.

But there’s plenty of other stuff, especially as the summer reaches its height, from the ambitious street theatre of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival to the musical theatre blowout of West End Live.

Not sure what you'll need for an open-air theatre trip? Then don’t miss our guide to practical open-air theatre info

If you’re interested in taking in some outdoor cinema this summer, head to our dedicated page.

Outdoor theatre in London this month

  • Shakespeare
  • South Bank
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Shakespeare’s Globe launches its summer season with this sparkling staging of one of the bard’s best comedies. It’s a sun-drenched spectacle that makes full use of the theatre’s crowd-pleasing openness and opportunity for audience interaction…

  • Drama
  • Regent’s Park

The Open Air Theatre is going big on family-friendly shows this summer, with a major new adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s novel about spoiled ten-year-old Mary Lennox, who is abruptly sent to live in rural Yorkshire with an uncle she’s never met, where she finds solace in nature. 

  • Shakespeare
  • London

Summer-centric outdoor company Shakespeare in the Squares has hitherto toured only well-known Shakespeare plays on its annual jaunts through London’s leafiest, generally West London-est public squares. But there’s an intriguing break with tradition this year as it turns to ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’, the Bard’s relatively little-known comedy…

Outdoor theatre coming to London soon

  • Outdoor theatres
  • South Bank

The National Theatre’s River Stage returns to the South Bank for a month of outdoor live music, dance, performance, workshops and family fun. Weekend evenings will see a varied programme of entertainment take place in front of the theatre, with special take-over weekends from The Glory, Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, Rambert and the NT itself. 

  • Musicals
  • Regent’s Park

The final show of Timothy Sheader’s Open Air Theatre reign is a revival of Bock and Stein’s immortal musical following the life of Teyve, a Jewish milkman living in the shtetl in the early twentieth century. You can be sure of a crowdpleaser, with much-loved songs like ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ and ‘Tradition’ all present and correct. 

  • Shakespeare
  • South Bank

The unexpected furor over Michelle Terry playing Richard III has somewhat overshadowed the fact that Shakespeare’s Globe has a disabled lead for one of its big productions this summer, in the form of Nadia Nadarajah. The deaf actor has been a regular on the Globe’s stage in recent years, and in 2024 she’ll take on the role of Egyptian queen Cleopatra in Blanche McIntyre’s bilingual English/BSL production of Shakespeare’s great Roman tragedy. 

  • Theatre & Performance

You can always rely on the annual free Greenwich + Docklands International Festival of outdoor theatre and performance art spectaculars to announce itself with a proper ‘how are they going to do that?’ piece of programming…

  • Drama
  • South Bank

The first new play proper to run outdoors at the Globe since ‘Emilia’, actor Anne Odeke’s play tells the extraordinary story of Princess Dinubolu, the first woman of colour to enter a beauty pageant in the UK: way back in 1908, Southend-on-Sea. 

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