Summer Previews: The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
As the sun finally begins to show its face, it’s time to look towards all the exciting things to come in the new season. Here, Arts Editor Fran Lowe takes a glance at the upcoming season for one of London’s prime summer theatre spots.
Open air theatre is one of my favourite things about summer. Provided our country’s infamous summer weather holds out, evenings sitting in glow of the setting sun, with a glass of bubbly in your hand, a blanket round your shoulders, watching a story unfolding in front of your eyes can be truly magical. Hell, there’s even something to be said for open air theatre in the rain- swap that blanket for a waterproof and that champers for a hot chocolate, and you’re all set.
I’ve loved the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre from my first visit- I think the setting is beautiful and perhaps even a little unexpected in the middle of the park, they make a real effort to create the perfect ambiance, and the theatre is, in my experience, exciting, innovative, and expertly performed.
The theatre’s 2015 season opens very soon: on Friday May 15th, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan will begin, running until June 14th. Now, I’ve seen Shakespeare on this stage before, but despite that, this retelling of a classic children’s story is really exciting me: I think the mysterious, enchanting night-time setting, out in the air where so much of this story takes place, will be perfect, and will really inspire the children in the audience to remember to believe in magic. With experienced directors Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel at the helm, and actors like Kae Alexander (who you might recognise as the geeky Chinese kid from BBC Three’s Bad Education) as Wendy, and suitably exciting young actor Hiran Abeysekera as Peter Pan himself, this production looks young, fresh and innovative.
From June 19th, things are getting rather more serious at Regent’s Park. Anton Chekov’s The Seagull, playing until July 11th with an immensely talented cast including Olivier Award winner Janie Dee, is the first of the writer’s four major plays. One thing that particularly interests me about this is that the plot of The Seagull forms around guests gathering for the staging of an open-air play: an obviously self-conscious choice for an open air theatre to produce, I’m excited to see how the audience will interact with and respond to the dramatic action on stage- and my, is this play dramatic, full of subtle subtexts and intrigue.
Sometimes, you just can’t beat a musical, and from July 16th to August 29th, Regent’s Park is set to be lit up by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, a real classic from the movies translated onto the stage. Director Rachel Kavanaugh has previously directed The Sound of Music for Regent’s Park, so is no stranger to making the place come alive with, well, the sound of music. If you’re in the mood for a barn dance and a bit of a party, look no further.
However, perhaps what I am personally most excited about on this programme this summer is their final full-scale production: it’s an adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, running from September 3rd-12th. Lord of the Flies has, for a long time, been an important novel to me, having been introduced to it by a drama teacher many years ago; upon meeting Golding’s daughter last Autumn and having the chance to have the man himself revealed just a little more, I am only more intrigued and fascinated by the story. Prior to a major UK tour, the acclaimed performance is truly not to be missed, full of horror, confusion, and real insights into humanity’s relations to one another. Sheader’s direction has been vastly critically celebrated, and for me, this is the real hot ticket of the summer.
So, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre hasn’t failed to disappoint with its line-up for this summer. There’s a real variety to look forward to, and something for everyone, it seems. Personally, it’s everything for someone- that someone being me. I’ll be the girl with a crisp gin and tonic, sitting at the end of the bar, soaking up the atmosphere.