The sun many or may not be out this summer, but London's iconic outdoor stages will be open come rain or shine once the season begins. The outdoor season kicks off in April at Shakespeare's Globe, followed by the gorgeous Regent's Park Opens Air Theatre, which begins its season in May. Plus there are sundry other vibrant events, including the annual street theatre blowourt of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival. Not sure what you'll need for an open-air theatre trip? Then don't miss our guide to practical open-air theatre info.
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Those chilly summer nights are put to good use as Regent's Park Open Air Theatre teams up with English National Opera for an open air production of Benjamin Britten’s creepy operatic version of Henry James's ghost story about a young governess desperate to protect her charges from unearthly beings.
The summer wouldn't be complete without the Open Air Theatre's traditional big musical blowout, and this looks to be a real treat: the first major London revival in a decade for Howard Ashman and Alan Menken camp horror comedy musical about a hapless florist who raises a vicious plant that feats on human flesh
As if Michelle Terry wasn't giving herself a difficult enough job by kicking off her tenure at the Globe with an actor-led (ie there's no formal director) production of 'Hamlet', then she's having the same company of actors – including herself – tackle 'As You Like It' in a similar style, to run in rep…
Michelle Terry is opening her inaugural season at the Globe with a populist one-two of ‘Hamlet’ and ‘As You Like It’ that should get bums on seats no problem. But this is a bit more of a risk: Barrie Rutter – formerly of Northern Broadsides, and one of the few people in the Terry season to work with Emma Rice – tackles Shakespeare and John Fletcher's little-loved late romance 'Two Noble Kinsmen'…
Shakespeare addressed many of his sonnets to 'The Dark Lady'. But who was she? One likely candidate is Emilia Bassano, a published poet and member of court. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's new play reveals a forgotten woman, and pulls her out from Shakespeare's shadow to reveal her life and work. Nicole Charles directs.
Matt Hartley's new drama is a fictionalisation of the remarkable true events that took place in the Derbyshire village of Eyam (pronounced Eem) in 1665, wherein the local Reverend William Mompesson took a series of remarkable decision to attempt to combat the spread of bubonic plague in the village and beyond…
Other open-air shows in London
Paul works in property, and he's a star of London's gay nightlife. Wendy is a single charity worker. And they're both lonely. 'The End of History' is a new site-specific play from High Hearted Theatre. It explores gentrification and a city in flux, unfolding in an outdoor site that's surrounded by new luxury developments.
Some of London's most gorgeous and rarified green spaces are playing host to Shakespeare this summer. Shakespeare in the Squares are back for a third year, and this time they're touring the bard's acerbic romcom 'As You Like It' round the capital. Director Tatty Hennessy's outdoor production will have a festival feel, inspired by '60s hippies and free-thinkers.
Every summer, Iris Theatre take over the blooming lovely gardens of St Paul's Church with a slate of outdoor shows. This year they're kicking things off with Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', a magical tale of finding love and getting drunk on a tropical island. Daniel Winder's promenade production is inspired by the pomp and luxury of 17th century court masques, and invites the audience to get their finest party gear on.
As darkness falls, 1500 pigeons will light up the sky, soaring over the Thames with tiny LEDs attached to their bodies. Duke Riley's feathery performance premiered in Brooklyn's Navy Yard in 2016. Now it's back, as LIFT festival's homage to the messenger pigeons who played a crucial role in WWI.
Between June 22 and July 7 2018 Greenwich and its surrounding area will be flooded with colourful performances as part of London's biggest celebration of outdoor theatre, Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
This nocturnal journey unfolds from dusk til dawn, guiding audiences through encounters with the city's night time economy. Created by Andy Field and Krista Burane, 'Nocturne' is part performance, part walk, part workshop, and is followed by an optional overnight stay called 'Nesting'.
LIFT Festival 2018 finishes up with a spectacular outdoor show directed by dance legend Hofesh Shechter. It's the first event in the moat around Tower of London since the 2014 Poppies installation, and it'll fill the space with over 150 dancers and musicians. Shechter will work with four young choreographers - Becky Namgauds, Duwane Taylor, James Finnemore and Joseph Toonga - to stage a giant outdoor performance inspired by East London.
Soak up some free circus performances at Somerset House as part of two weekends which celebrate 250 years since the first circus was launched in London by Philip and Patty Astley. Things have come along a bit in the intervening centuries: 'Circus Sampler' includes synchronised hula hooping from Marawa and the Majorettes, fast-paced hip-hop inspired footwork, tight-wire and Chinese pole by Far from the Norm, and dazzling juggling in Somerset House's fountains by hit troupe Gandini.
Fill yer boots with free live music, dance and theatre at the National Theatre's free outdoor mini-festival weekends. River Stage takes over a dedicated spot on Southbank outside the theatre, offering crowds the chance to discover new performers, join in workshops, or just slump back in a deckchair and soak up the sun. 2018 River Stages features five weekends of events curated by East London drag hub The Glory (13-15th July), regional theatre powerhouse HOME Manchester (20-22nd July), classical music innovators Nonclassical (3rd-5th August) and the National Theatre itself (10-12th August). Full line-up tba.