Why Outdoor Theatre And What Is Its History?

As I have said many times before, I am extremely passionate about outdoor theatre and enjoy every aspect of it, both from an actor and audience point of view. It's a sociable, fun and entertaining experience ...

It draws you into another place and time, taking you away from your normal life, if just for a few hours. I enjoy every second of it. But for me, 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 where performance 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 guilds 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 theatre spaces such as inn yards or enclosed courtyards. This encouraged the build of more purpose 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, a 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 with theatregoers, for both staging effects and also comfort.

"Even now, I can imagine this still applies to many!"

In recent years, I have seen that the love of outdoor theatre is once more on the rise. I believe it's because 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.

The nature of outdoor theatre promotes a great relationship between the actor and their audience, as they can wander through the crowd and encourage a lot of interaction and audience participation. All these elements are part and parcel, to me, as to why outdoor theatre is one of the best experiences you could have.

I have been lucky enough to not only watch many outdoor performances, but also act on an outdoor stage myself. I performed at the infamous Minack Theatre, Cornwall in Shakespeare's 'Cymbeline', which was immense fun; and what a place to do it!

"It is always a gamble with the British weather, but there is something quite charming and appealing about that!"

With The Arches Theatre being in the open air, we are working with our visiting theatre troupes to see if we can reformat the performances to adhere to social distancing rules. It is our priority to ensure that both the actors and audience members are safe at all times.

We will be making the decision very shortly if we will be postponing our 2020 summer season. We will be in contact with all ticket holders!

As we are a small independent, self-funding local business, until we hear otherwise, the show must go on! Tickets are available for the productions of The Merchant of Venice on 15th August and Allo, Allo! on 12th/13th and 19th/20th September.

We hope you can join us.

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.