Open air dramas to see in Lancashire this summer

The stunning backdrop at Brantwood

The stunning backdrop at Brantwood - Credit: Archant

Fingers crossed for fine weather as Julian Wilde reviews the host of outdoor theatre this summer

Performers at Brockholes Nature Reserve

Performers at Brockholes Nature Reserve - Credit: Archant

The unique attributes of theatre in the open air will be on show throughout the length and breadth of Lancashire’s richly varied acres this summer.

As the nation celebrates the 90th official birthday of the Queen, bands of professional outdoor players will take to the road, just as in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, to entertain at a range of wonderfully differing settings all over the Red Rose county.

From Lytham Hall to Brantwood near Coniston, from Hoghton Tower to Lancaster’s Williamson Park, some of Lancashire’s most delightfully scenic spots are set to play host to outdoor companies. Add appealing locations such as The Rock Garden at Edge Hill University, Brockholes nature reserve at Preston, Rufford Old Hall and Lytham’s Lowther Gardens and you have a portrait of the County Palatine in all its summer glory.

The shelter of the impressive 200-year-old beech trees and the complete absence of traffic noise make Lytham Hall an actor’s delight. With four plays each summer, it regularly draws up to 500 enthusiasts, many with champagne and strawberries, folding chairs, not to mention umbrellas and insect repellent.

Illyria players staging Shakespeare

Illyria players staging Shakespeare - Credit: Archant

Meg Hargreaves, from the Friends of Lytham Hall, said: ‘It’s a treat for all five senses and the atmosphere is very English. The nearness of the stage and the ability of the cast to involve their audience combine with the pleasure of being in the open air in an unspoiled setting on a long summer evening. For those here for the first time it’s an eye-opener.’

Illyria, one of the country’s longest-established outfits who are celebrating their 25th year on the road, will be bringing three shows to Lytham Hall in July and August – Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore and, as a family show, the Roald Dahl children’s favourite Danny, the Champion of the World.

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There’s innovation too in Lytham this summer as two of the Lancashire coast’s longest-established amateur companies – The Fylde Coast Players and Lytham Anonymous Players – will break new ground by joining together to present Moliere’s biting comedy The Miser among the flowers of Lytham’s Lowther Gardens for four evenings from July 13.

Whatever the play, the location or the company, every Lancashire audience will find that the actors always very properly take a professional pride in the text, especially that of Shakespeare. Accessible? – yes, dumbed down? – no. These hard-working heirs of 400 years of roaming through Shakespeare’s “sceptred isle”, still retain as their constant watchword Hamlet’s famous “The play’s the thing.”

Open air dramas

July 3: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Rock Garden, Edgehill University, Ormskirk 01 695 584480 www.edgehill.ac.uk

July 6: Richard III at Rufford Old Hall. 01 704 821254 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/rufford-old-hall

July 10: Ruddigore at Lytham Hall. 01 253 736652 www.lythamhall.org.uk

July 21/22: Hamlet at Leighton Hall near Carnforth. 01 524 734474 www.leightonhall.co.uk

July 21: Peter Pan at Hoghton Tower near Preston. 01 254 853986 www.hoghtontower.co.uk

August 14: Rat Burger by David Walliams at Brockholes Nature Reserve, Salmesbury, Preston. 01 772 872000 www.brockholes.org

August 23: Danny, the Champion of the World Brantwood at Brantwood, near Coniston. 01 539 441396 www.brantwood.org.uk