Why Outdoor Theatre And What Is Its History?
It all started with the Bible ...
Posted by David Pibworth on 26/05/2020 @ 8:00AM
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!
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, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 01234 241357 and let's see how I can help you.
About David Pibworth ...
David is the owner and Artistic Director of The Arches Theatre in Clifton Reynes near Milton Keynes. Productions are underneath some flood arches on the disused Midland railway line (Bedford to Northampton). It is equidistant from Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes. You bring your food, drink and chairs and enjoy the varied shows that are produced. This year - 2022 - there are 12 productions on throughout the season, from Shakespeare to Ripping Yarns plus a music weekend.
David has been involved in 'Light Ent' for many years, working with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson adapting the scripts of 'Steptoe and Son' and those of Tony Hancock to the stage. He has produced shows for Norman Wisdom (which makes him feel old), Al Murray, and Joe Pasquale amongst others, and also worked in the music business promoting and producing shows with Chas and Dave, Neil Inness, Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and others of that ilk.
He is also the director of a film school for young people in his home town of Olney as well as supporting many local events.
He recently negotiated permission from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to stage a short run of 'Porridge' on stage which proved a success.
This year the annual charity performance at The Arches Theatre will be the last of 'Ripping Yarns' by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, with the profits being donated to The National Brain Appeal' for research into dementia as David's father and uncle died of it, as did Michael Palin's friend and writing partner Terry Jones. Last year they raised an astonishing £10,000 and are hoping to get somewhere close again with the support of audiences and sponsors.
David also has a stage hire company and his wife Julie runs a livery yard, so they are surrounded by horses, dogs, light entertainment and and a 17 year old daughter.
He plays in a comedy jazz band and collects strange props such as the Spitting Image puppets of Denis Thatcher and Alan Bennett, the child catchers bike from the stage show of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and various other 'things' all of which he sells to raise money for the Arches Theatre, although he always finds it hard to part from these props. However as the theatre receives no funding at all, he is always devising ways to keep it going! Sponsors are always welcome!
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