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12 places to see outdoor theatre in Devon

Hampers and picnic blankets at the ready: it's outdoor theatre season! Choose from kid-pleasing comedy to peddling players and natural amphitheatres. Here are the best to book now.

STONE LANE GARDENS, Chagford

Pic credit: Three Inch Fools

This five-acre gem of a garden bristles with National Collections of birch trees and alder, which provide an elegant backdrop for their annual sculpture exhibition. Plus, on Weds 24 August, Three Inch Fools are performing Twelfth Night, a musical take on the Shakespearian comedy which sounds a hoot. Bring your blanket, chairs and vittles. Tickets £16.

HARTLAND ABBEY, Hartland

Dating back to the 12th century and noted for being England’s last monastery to be dissolved by Henry VIII (he gave it to the Sergeant of his Wine Cellar, as you do) Hartland Abbey is an appropriately historic backdrop for two Shakespeare productions this summer, including Sun & Moon Theatre’s Much Ado about Nothing, on Weds 8 Jun and Three Inch Fools’ Twelfth Night on Thurs 25 August. For kids, there are three plays suitable for 6-11 year olds, all including drama workshops – BoxTree Productions The Three Musketeers on Sun 24 July; The Last Baguette’s King Arthur on Thurs 4 Aug and David Walliams’ Awful Auntie brought to life by Heartbreak Productions on Tues 16 Aug. Bring a picnic, a blanket or book one (or a cream tea) in advance. Tickets £10-15pp, plus £5 for the kids’ workshop.

KNACKERSHOLE BARN GARDEN THEATRE, Dulverton

Pic credit The Common Players

Don’t be late for a very important date…on Sunday 17 July, The Common Players are at the charmingly named Knackershole Barn interpreting Alice in Wonderland via Monty Python with puppets, live music and dancing thrown in for good measure. Tickets £6 -£4. (Can’t make the date? Check out 26 other performances around Devon on their Facebook page.)

RAMM (ROYAL ALBERT MEMORIAL MUSEUM), Exeter

Revisit Exeter’s Roman past with an evening of myth and legend, Dreaming up the Past, on Fri 17 Jun, inspired by artefacts at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and performed in the atmospheric outdoor setting of Exeter’s Roman wall. Tickets: £5-10pp

CASTLE DROGO, Drewsteignton

Pic credit Box Tree Productions

Spread your blanket in the grounds of the last castle to be built in England, the National Trust owned Castle Drogo in the lush Teign Valley, for two timeless choices: JM Barrie’s Peter Pan from Illiyria on Sat 18 Jun including a. collection for Great Ormond Street; or an open-air family musical of The Three Musketeers on Sat 29 July from Box Tree Productions (above) who promise ‘your buckle will never be so swashed!’. Tickets £10-13

POWDERHAM CASTLE, Kenton

Powderham Castle’s historic 14th century courtyard is the setting for this play with music, The Mellstock Quire, adapted from the Thomas Hardy novel, Under the Greenwood Tree, from local thesps, Topsham Estuary Players. Bring your own chairs or beanbags not blankets for this one, the courtyard floor is tarmac. Tickets £5.

Arlington Court, Barnstaple

All in the summer hols, and all suitable for kids, National Trust Arlington Court has a pretty Regency house and a collection of horse-drawn carriages to admire, so go early and make a day of it. Dates for your diary are King Arthur (Weds 3 Aug); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sun 14 Aug) The War of the Worlds (Sun 21 Aug) and David Walliams’ Awful Auntie (Tues 30 Aug). All are held at 6pm on the lawn in front of the house, with BYO picnics and blankets very much the vibe, and some performances are previewed by kids’ drama workshops. Tickets £13-10.

RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington

Pic credit Heartbreak Productions

Four opportunities to enjoy drama among the dahlias, all in association with the Plough Arts Centre and including a chance for them to let down their hair at a Rapunzel-based drama workshop (40+ outdoor plays here) plus Hotbuckle Productions’ Great Expectations on Sun 26 Jun; Immersion Theatre’s Rapunzel on Weds 10 Aug; and Much Ado about Murder from Heartbreak Productions (above) on Sun 28 Aug, an original murder mystery with five suspects, silly songs and mayhem and you, the Miss Marpling audience, playing detective. Tickets £13-10.

COCKINGTON COURT, Torquay

Pic credit Illyria Productions

Three productions from the brilliant Illyria Productions, who the Daily Telegraph rightly describe as giving ‘topnotch outdoor theatre’ for over 30 years, so you’re in for a treat: A Misummer Night’s Dream on Weds 10 Aug; Peter Pan on Sun 28 Aug and Pirates of Penzance on Thurs 1 Sept. Here’s also a creative hub with a sculpture garden, craft studios, the Seven Dials Cafe and leisurely walks around the grounds.

CLOVELLY COURT PARK, Clovelly

Pic credit The Pantaloons

North Devon’s historic fishing village plays host to four family-friendly performances this summer, with help from the Plough Arts, including the Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance (Sat 2 Jul), Much Ado about Nothing (Sun 10 Jul), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tues 16 Aug) and HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds (Sat 20 Aug). Blanket seating is reserved at the front or bring a low-back chair, soft drinks available, tickets £13-10.

Sheldon Open Air Theatre

Pic credit Sheldon Open Air Theatre

This hidden gem of an outdoor theatre at Sheldon, near Doddiscombeleigh in the Teign Valley is nestled in a natural amphitheatre of grassy banks and terraces. There’s no theatre on the menu for 2022, but I’ve included it as I’d never heard of it and it sounds cool! There are three music gigs, including tribute acts, Pure Queen and Counterfeit Beatles and local band, Joey the Lips, all coming your way in July. Tickets £20-£12.

TAPELEY PARK, Barnstaple

Pic credit The HandleBards

Plenty of thespian high jinks to enjoy at North Devon’s Italianate garden this summer, including doing the rounds many already mentioned, plus on Tuesday 19 July, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, from wittily named HandleBards, an intrepid bunch of cycling actors, who carry their props, costume and set on the back of their bikes to pedal their plays. And its that alone isn’t worth a standing ovation, then what is?

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