Fresh! Cornwall’s Best Outdoor Theatres
Picnic hampers and fold-up chairs at the ready: it's outdoor theatre season! You've got your pick this year, from kid-pleasing comedy to gritty classics. Here are the best to book now - under the sky and beside the sea.
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.
Old Tennis Lawn, Pentillie Castle
Bring your low backed seating or a picnic rug and make sure that you dress up warmly – Pentillie is opening the garden for a series of outdoor theatre events across July and August. The UK’s premier all male theatre company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, bring their fabulous production of William Shakespeare’s sparkling comedy As You Like It, on 20 July, followed by Illyria’s open-air performance of Peter Pan on 5 August.
Miracle Theatre’s King Lear, Various locations outside across Cornwall
King Lear is an exquisitely dark tale about a family squabble that grows out of all proportion, blowing up into a storm of deadly force. This fresh and fast-paced adaptation of Shakespeare’s text – pared down to its bare essentials – tells a shocking, yet tender, story of ageing and madness, fuelled by ambition and fired by betrayal. Shakespeare loved to weave theatrical magic out of tragedy in a way that is never far from farce, making King Lear ripe for Miracle’s unique treatment! Locations include Carn Mar Ampitheatre (13 – 14 July), The Beacon at St Agnes (21-23 July), Trelissik nr Truro, Bocconoc, Isles of Scilly, Newquay Orchard and Enys Garden in Penryn (25 – 27 August).
Sterts, Upton Cross, Liskeard
Muddy Award-winning Sterts Theatre is the South West’s only permanent outdoor, undercover theatre auditorium and has plenty on this summer. 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. 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. Upcoming shows are the usual variety of genres and styles and include opera (The Mikado), Quantum Theatre’s Peter Rabbit, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, David Walliams’ Awful Auntie – the list is endless.
I AM KEVIN, Wildworks, 6 – 20 August, Carlyon Beach, St Austell
Internationally renowned, Cornwall-based site-specific theatre company Wildworks head to Carlyon Beach, St Austell with ‘I AM KEVIN’. This is billed as a “bedtime story to set the world on fire…”, dark, humorous, fiery and honest… ‘I AM KEVIN’ is a provocation to rediscover the powernand possibility that lies beneath the surface of us all. Directed by Mydd Pharo and created with the communities of Cornwall. Suitable for ages 12+
Trebah Garden Amphitheatre, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth
Built into the heart of the sub-tropical garden just outside Mawnan Smith, the amphitheatre at Trebah hosts a vivid mix of theatre, music, stand-up comedy, puppetry and dance across the summer. Theatre highlights include Estella (8 July), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (21 July) and A Room with a View (2 Sept).
Bedruthan Hotel, Mawgan Porth
Pick your spot and get comfortable with cosy rugs and garden cushions laid out across the sea front meadow. Guests can make the most of the open-air experience with bespoke hampers available to purchase with tickets, promising a range of sweet and savoury treats. July will see timeless classics such as William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (19 July) as well as more kid-friendly offerings like The Reluctant Dragon by Quantum Theatre (3pm matinee, 23 July), whilst little ones can look forward to August with well-known favourites such as Rapunzel (12 Aug) and Cinderella (23 Aug) taking the stage.
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, offering a variety of one-off concerts and performances. Highlights for the summer include a varied selection of theatre and music including comedy Peri-Meno…. What Now? (14 June) right the way through to kid-crowd pleasing Quantum Theatre’s Peter Rabbit (3 August) [are you sensing a tour theme!?] and local am-dram performing The Importance of Being Earnest (9 August), with something for everyone in between.
The Gondoliers, Gilbert and Sullivan, Park House Opera, St Clements, Truro, 20, 22 – 23 July
Robert and Sam Salvoni are the latest custodians of Park House, a small Country House nestled between Truro and St Clement, on the peninsula that was once the ancient Forest of Moresk. Having always enjoyed Opera, they were keen to support the fabulous Duchy Opera by opening up their home as a venue.
The Minack, Porthcurno
You can’t have a list of best outdoor theatre and not include the world-famous (and Muddy Award winning) The Minack theatre. Perched on a rocky granite outcrop jutting out into the sea, the view over towards the beach is *almost* as captivating as what is on the stage… currently showing Polly Teale’s bold and exciting retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre, there are four day runs of various exciting sounding visiting theatre including a version of Homer’s The Odyssey and a stage production of Philip Pullman’s novel, The Firework-Maker’s Daughter rounds off the month. July opens with Vanity Fair, and The Piskie in the Garden storytelling returns to keep the kids happy all summer. There will also be opera (Don Giovanni and The Pirates of Penzance) and musical theatre Songs under the Stars.
Also look out for…
Rogue Theatre in Tehidy Woods – this Muddy-Award winning and Muddy fave magical woodland theatre experience is perfect for kids but also just lovely for adults. Currently no show dates or details released, but the team usually heads back to Tehidy Woods between festival performances later in August.
Plen an Gwari in St Just, which last year played host to The Ordinalia plays which are unique to Cornwall. The Plen an Gwari at St Just is one of only two surviving medieval amphitheatres built in Cornwall — nothing scheduled for this summer so far now the Platinum Jubilee celebrations have passed, but worth keeping an eye out.
One of Cornwall’s world-famous Great Gardens, The Lost Gardens of 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 nearly 20 years, but no announcements yet as to what they have planned this summer.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
It’s further afield, sure, but there’s something just so summer-defining about attending a performance in Regent’s Park. This year, there’s Legally Blonde running until 2 July, a new musical adaptation of 101 Dalmations boasting Warhorse-style puppets (12 July – 28 August), and then Sophocles’ classic tragedy Antigone (3-24 September) for something with a bit more grit. Tickets start from £25.