London is just the best for theatre, and with the summertime months upon us, many incredible events take shape. Round off a perfect London day after a Top Sights Tour with some of these exclusive theatre experiences.
The sun many or may not be out this summer, but London’s iconic outdoor stages will be open come rain or shine once the season begins. The outdoor season kicks off in April at Shakespeare’s Globe, followed by the gorgeous Regent’s Park Opens Air Theatre, which begins its season in May. Plus there are sundry other vibrant events, including the annual street theatre blowout of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival.
The Open Air Theatre is surely one of London’s most beautiful venues. Stroll through picturesque Regent’s Park to find the theatre nestled away, its stage flanked by towering trees.
Established in 1932, the award-winning Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is one of the largest theatres in London. Situated in the beautiful surroundings of a Royal Park, both its stage and auditorium are entirely uncovered. The theatre is celebrated for its bold and dynamic productions (The Turn of the Screw, Little Shop of Horrors, The Seagull, Porgy and Bess, The Crucible, Henry V), with audiences of over 140,000 each year during its 18-week season.
Timothy Sheader and William Village were appointed Joint Chief Executives in 2007. During their tenure, the theatre’s productions of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Sound of Music won the WhatsOnStage Best Play Revival and Best Musical Revival Awards respectively, Into the Woods won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and transferred to the Delacorte Theatre, Central Park, New York in 2012, and Hello, Dolly! won the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical alongside a further three Laurence Olivier Awards. 2011’s record-breaking production of Crazy for You transferred directly to London’s West End, winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and Best Costume Design.
The theatre’s ambition of reaching new audiences beyond the Park has seen their productions of Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird tour the UK and Ireland, the latter subsequently transferring to the Barbican for a month-long residency in 2015, and their co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild toured the UK in 2017.
The 2016 sell-out production of Jesus Christ Superstar won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and Evening Standard Award for Best Musical, and the production returned to the Open Air Theatre for an extended engagement in 2017 ahead of a run at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Spring 2018. The production plays 60 performances at the Barbican Theatre (4 July – 24 August 2019), and a North American Tour commences in Autumn 2019.
Underbelly Festival at South Bank (Until 30 September)
Open from April until the end of September, Underbelly Festival Southbank brings you world class entertainmentat at the attractive pop-up festival right in the heart of London. Packed to the brim with all new Family Fest, Underbelly Lates, Podcast Live, and the best live circus, cabaret, comedy and music, they’ve truly got it all. You can enjoy international street food, after work drinks in one of London’s largest outdoor bars and a true festival atmosphere on the banks of the Thames.
The shows are short (usually only an hour long), sharp and very sweet. And the vast majority of tickets are under £20 making Underbelly Festival your affordable entertainment destination in London this summer.
Shakespeare’s Globe (Until 14 October) Shakespeare’s Globe.
An iconic sight on the banks of the Thames, Shakespeare’s Globe was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker, built about 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre and opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V. The site also includes the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an indoor theatre which opened in January 2014. This is a smaller, candle-lit space based on the indoor playhouses of Jacobean London. The Sackler Studios, an educational and rehearsal studio complex, is situated just around the corner from the main site. There is also an exhibit about Shakespeare’s life and work.
Opera Holland Park (29 May to 28 July)
Opera Holland Park is a stunning purpose built venue set in the gorgeous Holland Park in West London.
At the end of the opera season, they turn the space into London’s most exciting pop up cinema venue.
The auditorium is under a canopy so there’s no danger of getting wet if the weather turns nasty,
Inside, Opera Holland Park, which has its own internationally acclaimed orchestra, stages a host of fantastic musical productions. This year’s summer season includes La traviata, Cosi fan tutte, Isabeau, Ariadne auf Naxos and performances by the Royal Ballet School.
Battersea Arts Centre’s Summer In The Courtyard (7 June to 27 July)
Savour sunny evenings and get your fill of innovative performances without venturing up to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. The open-air courtyard at Battersea Arts Centre comes to life with a lively season of comedy, spoken word, music and theatre.
Kicking off the season on 7 June, there’s comedy from award-winning trio Sleeping Trees, combining sketches, stand up and music to characteristically chaotic effect.
Night owls can laugh long into the night as Stand up Under the Stars (14 June, 27 June and 5 July) invites a stellar cast of comedians to entertain us after dark. Highlights include Netflix favourite James Acaster, Live at the Apollo stars Phil Wang and Elf Lyons, Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Tim Key, QI’s Lolly Adefope and many more.
BP Big Screens (12 June, 26 June and 12 July) at the Royal Opera House
Experience a performance by The Royal Opera or The Royal Ballet in the sunshine. There are now free outdoor screenings live from the Royal Opera House. The BP Big Screens is back with some of the world’s most popular operas and ballets. This summer they will screen three amazing productions across the UK as part of our BP Big Screens festival. Romeo and Juliet on 11 June, Carmen on 2 July, and The Marriage of Figaro on 9 July.
West End LIVE (16 to 17 June)
West End LIVE is Westminster City Council’s annual showcase event that celebrates the quality and diversity of entertainment on offer in the heart of London.
Co-presented by the Society of London Theatre and supported by the Mayor of London, West End LIVE features live stage performances from many of London’s most celebrated; West End Musicals, stage schools, community groups and live bands alongside interactive marquee content hosted by some of London’s most popular museums, galleries and cultural institutions.
Shakespeare In The Squares (20 June to 12 July)
Rather than sticking to one location, Shakespeare In The Squares visits many places in the capital over three weeks. This year, it brings Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream. This tale of swapped lovers, stolen boys and fantastic beasts will be set in pre-war 1920s Britain where our lovers chafe against the conventions of an older generation, and seek to escape its constraints to find freedom in the forest. There they stumble upon a riotous world held forever in a golden age of magic, circus and opulent colours. Here, under the moonlight, drama, romance and madness ensue.
Iris Theatre at St Paul’s Church (21 June to 3 September)
Iris Theatre is an award-winning theatre company based in the heart of London’s Theatreland. Over the past decade we have built a reputation for innovative site-specific theatre with mass appeal. Our year is centred around our summer promenade performances in the grounds and buildings of the Actors Church in Covent Garden. Our ten week summer season generally consists of a Shakespeare play followed by a classic Family story.