Outdoor theatre in Sussex
There's something magical about theatre alfresco. Here's where you can make memories at open air shows in Sussex and nearby this summer.
Twelfth Night/Tons of Money, West Dean Gardens, Chichester, dates until 13 July
West Dean’s pretty Pergola Open Air Theatre has been running two alfresco productions as part of the Festival of Chichester. Still to come are performances of Twelfth Night on 11 and 13 July, while on 12 July is Tons of Money – a farce adapted by Alan Ayckbourn, in which a hard-up inventor pretends to be his cousin to escape his creditors.
Outdoor opera and theatre, Weald & Downland Living Museum, Singleton, Chichester, 20, 21 & 25 July, 6 & 8-11 Aug
Opera Brava sweeps into Weald & Downland Living Museum with different performances on consecutive days. On Sat 20 July watch as Count Almaviva aided by Figaro manages to woo his love away from her wicked guardian in The Barber of Seville. Next up, on Sun 21 July, is passion, lust, betrayal, deception and forgiveness in The Marriage of Figaro. Theatre-wise family favourite The Wind in the Willows brings mishap and mayhem on Thurs 25 Jul in Quantum Theatre’s new adaptation. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is then up on Tues 6 Aug and Walliam’s hit Gangsta Granny on Thurs 8 Aug – Sun 11 Aug. Opera tickets £30; other shows £14 adults, £10 children, £40 families. Bring a rug and a picnic, or buy food from the Waterside Cafe.
Sense and Sensibility/Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Uppark House and Garden, nr Petersfield, Sat 20 July/ Sat 17 Aug
You’ll find heroes, heartbreak and debonair villains, all topped off with a dashing duel in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility from DOT Productions coming up at the National Trust’s Uppark House and Garden near Petersfield on the evening of Sat 20 July (tickets £15). The next month Illyria will be making it an Arabian night when they perform Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves on Sat 17 Aug (Adults £17.50, children £8.50).
Various adults and family shows, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Hove, various dates until 24 Sept
B.O.A.T in Dyke Road Park is a great place to relax on a summer’s afternoon. It’s a wood and astro turf ampitheatre, there’s a small bar alongside and picnicking while you watch is positively encouraged. Productions still to come include Wuthering Heights; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Show and The Adventures of Robin Hood Show from Mr Dilly’s World of Wonder; Nell Gwynn; Frankenstein; Wind in the Willows; The Secret Garden; Treasure Island; Private Lives; As You Like It; Sense and Sensibility and more, plus music with Punks Picnic 2 and the End of Summer Party.
Wind in the Willows/ Much Ado About Nothing, Petworth House Pleasure Ground, Sun 21 July/Thurs 1 Aug
Petworth Festival will be serving up outdoor performances for young and older this summer. For families, there’s a free performance of Wind in the Willows at Petworth House Pleasure Ground on the afternoon of Sun 21 July, with entry to the house and grounds also free the same day. Look out beforehand for entertainment from Rustle – two stilt walking trees! A madcap all-male Much Ado About Nothing will then unfold on Thurs 1 Aug courtesy of cycling Shakespeare troop The HandleBards. That’s at Bignor Park near Pulborough and tickets are £23 (£5 for under 18s).
Ikarus Inc, various Sussex locations in Jul and Aug
Outdoor theatre group The Rude Mechanicals are rocking up at green spaces in Sussex to perform Ikarus Inc alfresco. In Indiana, in the 1950s, a travelling salesman, Daedalus H. Gildersleeves, and his son Ikarus, sell dreams from a suitcase. Secret hopes are laid bare as they begin to fly the townsfolk up to their dreams. It’s physical theatre with live rock and roll. Adult tickets are £17. Stops include Barcombe, Burwash, Lewes, Crowhurst, Alfriston, Hartfield, St Leonards, Wadhurst, Waldron, Rushlake Green, Hadlow Down and Michelham Priory. Full list here.
Twelfth Night /Othello, Highdown Gardens, Worthing, Tues 16 – Sun 21 July/ Tues 23 to Sun 28 July
Othello might have trouble putting out the light in this production – it’s outside in Worthing’s Highdown Gardens with local group Rainbow Shakespeare doing the honours. Before then, the same company present the cross-dressing capers and love tangles of Twelfth Night. Both plays run the best part of a week in the evening with matinees also at the weekends. Tickets for all performances are £18. Get there early to get stuck into your picnic.
Romeo & Juliet, Italian Gardens, Eastbourne, Wed 24 July – Sat 3 Aug
Join EODS at Eastbourne’s beautiful Italian Gardens for their annual open air Shakespeare. This year it’s those star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet in with a ‘Post Modern Renaissance’ style production. Drinks and homemade cakes will be available to sob into. Tickets are £16 -£19, Children and pensioners £14.
La Traviata/The Barber of Seville/Gangsta Granny, Borde Hill Garden, Haywards Heath, Fri 26 July / Sat 27 July / Fri 2 Aug
Enjoy some open air opera at Borde Hill Garden this summer with La Traviata and The Barber of Seville on consecutive July days. Tickets are £35 (under 16s £10) and there are posh picnics to pre-order. Then on 2 Aug, there’s fun for kids 7+ with an adaptation of David Walliam’s Gangsta Granny performed outdoors.(£12 adults, £10 children, £39 families.
The garden also has several musical picnics.
Nell Gwynn, The Hawth Amiptheatre, Crawley, Sat 3 Aug
The British playwright Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2015 and won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. The play charts the rise of an unlikely heroine, from her roots in Coal Yard Alley, to her success as Britain’s most celebrated actress, and a favourite mistress of the King. It will be performed by Changeling Theatre at The Hawth’s amiptheatre on Sat 3 Aug at 7.30pm. Tickets are £22.50.
The Tempest, Arundel Castle Fri 16 – Sat 17 Aug
Arundel Castle becomes an enchanted isle this summer as Shakespeare’s The Tempest is performed by popular touring group Illyria. The play will take place in the Collector Earl’s Garden. Advance tickets are £20 for adults, £15 for children. You can picnic in the grounds from 5.30pm with the gardens themselves open from 18.30 and the performance starting an hour later.
Wind in The Willows, North Heath Hall garden, Horsham Sat 24 Aug
There’s another Wind in The Willows on Sat 24 Aug when Manor Theatre Group brings Ratty Mole, Toad … plus a few new invented characters like err Harry Otter and Ron Weasel, to the garden of North Heath Hall. £12 for adults, £10 for children, £32 for a family of four. The following night you can catch it inside the hall.
Wuthering Heights, Lewes Castle and Museum, Sat 24 Aug
Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights is coming to Lewes! Ringing the changes from Shakespeare, the Bronte classic will be performed outdoors at the castle by Chapterhouse Theatre Company. It’s £17.60 for adults, £12.10 for children or £49.22 for a family of four including transaction fees.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wakehurst, Ardingly, Sat 31 Aug & Sun 1 Sept
There’s an Elizabethan costume production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a musical score at Wakehurst at the end of August. Chapterhouse Theatre Company present the Bard’s rom com on 31 Aug and 1 Sept. Tickets are £16 adults, £11 children or £46 for a family of four. There’s also an option to splash out and book a picnic hamper with various options from afternoon tea style, to ploughman’s or an indulgent Taste of Sussex
The Secret Garden, Battle Abbey, Sun 1 Sept
Battle Abbey will see the more gentle drama of The Secret Garden performed by Chapterhouse touring theatre group at the end of summer. It’s £17.60 for adults, £12.10 for children or £49.22 for a family of four.
Alice in Wonderland, Leeds Castle, Kent, 23 Aug and 24 Aug
Just outside Sussex, this kids’ show is on for the school hols, running 6 – 8pm on 23 and 24 Aug on the lawn beside lovely Leeds Castle. Tickets are £15 for adults, £12 for children.
Also look out for….
It may not be traditional theatre but there’s also alfresco free circus in Worthing this summer. Check out Lifted by all-female acrobatic company Mimbre outside the Pavilion Theatre on Sat 20 July and trampoline antics with DIP in the same place on Sat 3 Aug.