Cornwall’s Outdoor Theatres
Get your culture fix alfresco! 7 places to enjoy a little drama, dance, music or comedy under the sky.
Meh, who needs Broadway when we’ve got so much home grown grassroots talent? There’s no shortage of touring shows and in-house productions on offer locally and all to be enjoyed in the great outdoors. As the weather begins to warm up, it’s the perfect time to check out these open air theatres and get some tickets booked for summer.
Bedruthan Clifftop Theatre (Mawgan Porth)
The Bedruthan Hotel has a brilliant arts and culture offering with art fairs, exhibitions and workshops throughout the year. This summer they’re transforming their beautiful sea-view lawn into a pop-up outdoor theatre, with food stalls and a well stocked bar. Award-winning Cornish theatre companies Miracle and Illyria will be putting in an appearance and guests are encouraged to arrive early (with plenty of blankets and cushions), to enjoy the view and a drink before the show begins.
Thurs 22 June — The Third Policeman by Miracle Theatre Company
Wed 2 Aug — The Emperor’s New Clothes by Illyria Theatre
Tues 15 Aug — The Emperor’s New Clothes by Illyria Theatre
££: Early bird tickets cost £12 for adults, £7 for children, £10 concessions or £35 for a family of four.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
One of Cornwall’s world-famous Great Gardens, Heligan is a joy in summer whether you go for a special event or just for a wander but how magical to catch a play or a dance performance is this beautiful spot! Outdoor theatre has been a big feature of their summer events programme for the past 15 years and following three years working with the Kneehigh Asylum, this year, The Lost Gardens of Heligan welcome Rogue Theatre, with their Wild Woodland Ball. As ever, the family friendly promenade performance, promises to enchant you with tales of the Lost Gardens. What magic – I can’t wait!
Fri 23 June — The Third Policeman by Miracle Theatre Company
Sun 27 Aug – Hansel and Gretel by Cscape Dance Company
Rogue Theatre’s Wild Woodland Ball (details TBC)
££: Tickets for The Third Policeman cost £14 for adults, £8 for under 16s, £12 for concessions and £40 for a family for four.
The Trelowarren Estate (The Lizard Peninsula)
I can’t wait for this one! Not really a theatre but the venue for the summer’s most buzzed-about theatre production – a outdoor promenade performance of Wolf’s Child by WildWorks. After 10 years creating work around the world, the renowned theatre company is coming home to Cornwall. The stage will be set in the grounds of the historic Trelowarren Estate, on the banks of the Helford River and the audience will follow the drama from set to set as the story unfolds. This promises to be an unforgettable production in a very special part of Cornwall, particularly poignant, as WildWorks mourns the passing of its pioneering Artistic Director Bill Mitchell.
11 – 29 July Wolf’s Child by WildWorks
££: Tickets cost £21 for adults, £16 for children and £19 for students.
Sterts Theatre (Upton Cross)
Muddy award-winning Theatre Sterts is a favourite here at Muddy HQ. Their in-house shows are just as professional as the touring productions. It’s a natural amphitheatre in the grounds of an old pig farm but the bonus is, it’s covered by a giant tent. That means it’s practically all weather and you won’t get wet. However, it can get a bit chilly once the sun has gone down, so regulars come armed with blankets, coats and a cushion or two for added luxury. There are no allocated seats, so turn up early to grab a good spot. You can bring a picnic or buy snacks and drinks from the café.
In-house productions of Macbeth (dates from June to Sept). Bugsy Malone (dates from July to Sept), Arsenic & Old Lace (dates from July to Sept), My Fair Lady (dates from July to Aug).
And from May you can catch touring productions of The Emperors New Clothes, Trevithick starring Kernow King, King Lear, Into The Woods, Pride and Prejudice, The Taming of The Shrew, The Third Policeman, The Sea Show by Squashbox and many more…
££: Tickets cost £12 for adults, £6 for children and £10 for concessions. You can also add a two-course meal for £15.
Trebah Garden Amphitheatre (Mawnan Smith)
Trebah Gardens won the Muddy Award for best family attraction and easy to see why – a sub tropical paradise in a wooded valley. As a cultural centre Trebah hosts and produces a mix of live theatre, music and dance events, on the stage and across the gardens. Trebah celebrates the vibrant talents of the Cornish performing arts sector as well as welcoming touring shows. Food wise, you can bring a picnic, pre book a pasty or enjoy the bar and food available on the garden’s private beach post show.
29 May – 3 Jun — Trebah Live Music Festival, including performances from Grace Notes, Suzie Mac and Fisherman’s Friends.
8 Jun – 11 Jun — Trebah Shakespeare Festival. Twelfth Night, Taming of The Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing will be performed by various local companies.
17 June – 8 Sept — Performance Season. Many other plays, dance productions, comedy and opera performances are lined up for the season, including shows from Miracle, Illyria and Squashbox and a performance of The Smartest Giant in Town, which was a big hit with families last year.
££: Tickets cost £12 for adults, £8 for under 16s and Trebah members enjoy a discounted ticket price of £10.80.
The Minack Theatre (Porthcurno)
An iconic Cornish treasure, The Minack Theatre is a classic amphitheatre boasting incredible sea views. Built by hand by Rowena Cade (bit of a local hero), they improved it a little every winter. From hosting the village play in 1929, the theatre now sees around 80,000 visitors a year, over the 17-week summer season. The theatre is open from May to September, presenting drama, musicals and opera and a mix of local, amateur and professional touring shows. There is a café in the amphitheatre and there’s often a food truck or two outside but picnics are also welcome. I’d advise bringing layers, as it can get pretty windy up on the clifftops here.
Ok, I can’t list every performance here but you can expect everything from Shakespeare to opera, children’s plays to choral performances. Lots of popular local companies will be at The Minack over the summer – Kneehigh, Miracle and Illyria — as well as performances from many touring companies. And the season always ends with the proms at the end of Sept.
££: Ticket prices are based on the show. If you catch Seth Lakeman this week, it will set you back £22.50, whereas for smaller productions, tickets can cost as little as £10.
Penlee Park Open Air Theatre (Penzance)
There have been Shakespeare plays performed at this historic outdoor theatre since 1948 and you can still see a few of his classic plays here throughout the summer season. Unlike some of the windier clifftop venues, Penlee Park Open Air Theatre is set in beautiful sheltered gardens in Penzance. The theatre seats about 300 people and is built on the site of the old Penlee House tennis courts, with a turfed area that acts as the stage and an enchanting fairy-lit entrance. You can pre-order a warming, pre-show curry and naan bread for the evening performances and there are also hot drinks, Polgoon cider and Skinner’s ales on offer at the bar. Or you can bring your own!
Again, there’s too many to list them all but you can expect a bit of Shakespeare, a few children’s plays, some top local music and comedy and a sprinkling of more grown-up events, such as a performance by London burlesque troupe The Folly Mixtures and a very civilised gin and jazz afternoon.
££: Ticket prices change slightly from show to show but expect to pay about £12 for adults and £8 for children.