It is July and a big bright glowy thing, which I am reliably informed is called ‘The Sun,’ has appeared in the sky. As can be expected whenever a bit of sunshine appears, we have all flocked to the parks, beaches, pavement tables, and anywhere else we can find a patch of sunlight. After all, vitamin D is hard to come by in our damp climes; we have to take every chance we can get.
However, this poses a problem for us theatre-goers as the closest we’ll get to sunlight in an auditorium is through some Lee filters 101 gel and a window gobo. But never fear – we don’t need to succumb to a ghostly pallor and mild case of rickets for the sake of a summer theatre fix just yet.
Performances have been enjoyed outdoors since the Ancient Greeks enjoyed stories of wrathful deities, thrilling wars and family drama to rival Eastenders. From Will Kemp’s epic nine-day dance from London to Norwich at the turn of the seventeenth century, to the busker you pass on your way to work in the morning – performances are at home outside theatres as in them.
I love going to theatres – the magic of sitting in an auditorium as the house lights go down, the lights come up on stage, and a whole audience sits rapt together is one of my favourite things – but I’m possibly an even bigger fan of outdoor performances. I can sit and stretch out my legs, soak up some sunshine (or laugh in soggy solidarity with other rain drenched theatregoers), enjoy fresh air and an often more permeable fourth wall.
Outdoor theatre is summer theatre, even in winter. It captures the freedom and brightness of long sun-soaked evenings.
As I wrote in last month’s column, there are some excellent examples of outdoor theatre coming up this summer. Including Rough Magic’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in the Castle Yard at Kilkenny Arts Festival, Les P’Tits Bras’ Behind the Scenes at Galway International Arts Festival, and an Grianán Theatre and Parrabola Theatre Company’s production of A Winter’s Tale.
However, you needn’t commit to a few hours of the Bard to enjoy some outdoor performance this summer. The joy of it is that it can be informal, it can happen anywhere and it can be enjoyed by anyone. Just think of that video of dozens of people dancing to a busker on Grafton Street that has been doing the social media round this week. Urban-dwellers, just step outside your office and walk for ten minutes and I’m sure you’ll find a pavement performance of some description, be it juggling, singing, chalking beautiful drawings on the path or fearlessly swallowing swords.
As Shakespeare wrote, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” so get out there, grab your sunhat, your picnic blanket and your sense of adventure, and seek out something on summer’s spontaneous stages.