How Did Outdoor Theatre Become So Popular?

We are extremely passionate about theatre and enjoy every aspect of it. It's a sociable, fun and entertaining experience that draws you into another place and time, taking you away from your normal life, if just for a few hours ...

But for us at The Arches Theatre, taking this excitement and energy to an outside venue just gives it an extra sense of escapism. It changes the whole dynamics of a performance, making it more immersive and interactive and giving it added impact.

"Outdoor theatre has grown in popularity over the last decade!"

It has turned into somewhat of an annual tradition for many in the UK. But how did this al fresco experience really start? It seems to date back to the 10th century when drama and performing appeared in church services, particularly at Easter time. Stories from the Bible were dramatised to the congregation because many could not read.

Later, around the 13th/14th century, these plays were divorced from the church and instead were performed by the craft guild in outdoor spaces. They would perform on wooden carts that moved around the streets to gather an audience and then would come to rest at an arranged site.

Around the end of the 15th century many towns and cities, including York and Chester, had prominent outdoor performance spaces such as inn yards or enclosed courtyards. This encouraged the building of more purposeful outdoor theatres, which lead to the construction of one of the most famous outdoor theatres in 1576, The Globe, which also had its very own resident playwright, one Mr William Shakespeare.

As the years continued, more and more indoor theatres were also built, to house the changing theatre genres and the production that went with it. Inside venues soon became the preference of theatregoers, for both staging effects and also comfort.

The love of outdoor theatre is once more on the rise, particularly since the pandemic. People are starting to enjoy the novelty of being outdoors, somewhere unexpected, beautiful and perhaps quirky and not having to pay through the nose for such a wonderful and different experience.

At the Arches Theatre, come rain or shine, we want to bring our audience to a beautiful setting to enjoy a pre-theatre picnic with friends and family, and a fantastic live performance by some truly brilliant acting companies!

We will be announcing our summer 2023 lineup very shortly. If you are signed up to The Arches+ newsletter then you will be the first to know about who will be taking to our outdoor stage and be able to purchase tickets before anyone else. Make sure to register before 31st January to get the full lineup.

We hope you will join us this summer.


If you'd like to find out more about anything I've written here, call me on 01234 241357 or leave a comment below and I'll be in touch.