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David Pibworth | The Blog


Why Outdoor Theatre And What Is Its History?

It all started with the Bible ...

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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 ...

The most famous outdoor theatre is The Globe who's resident playwrite was William Shakespeare himself!

The most famous outdoor theatre is The Globe who's resident playwrite was William Shakespeare himself!


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.

Until next time ...


Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more about outdoor theatre, do give me a call on 01234 241357, leave a comment below or click here to ping over an email and let's see how I can help you..

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About David Pibworth ...


David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions (DPP) which provide corporate entertainment and also actors for corporate training and development.

Having worked in the Light Entertainment field for many years and produced shows for Al Murray & Joe Pasquale amongst others, David is in a position to advise on well-known comedy and musical acts. DPP also represent Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's scripts which include Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

He is the director of MK Theatre of Comedy who are very well known locally for their stage adaptations of classic comedy scripts such as Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Allo Allo and many others.

He is a long-standing member of Equity and the Directors Guild of Great Britain and has acted in, and directed, many productions over the years, mainly in Light Entertainment, but with occasional forays into Shakespeare etc. Every Christmas he is contracted as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, currently with 'That's Entertainment' who also use him as a director.

He teaches eccentric magic for The Pauline Quirke Academy and MKTOC also run a youth drama school in Olney from the DPP offices.

David maintains his busy lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid being on any committees. He is married to Julie, and they have one daughter, Esther and live in Clifton Reynes, surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. They live so close to the church that David has instructed his daughter - when he dies and not before - to fire him over the wall from a circus cannon.