Theatre re-opening is just a breath of fresh air

Our city’s theatre lovers breathed a sigh of relief this week when PM Boris Johnson confirmed they could reopen, writes Christopher Walker.

Performers are tip-toeing carefully back on stage, taking plenty of precautions.

To begin with, it will be the outdoor productions which offer the safest opportunities, and music fans are particularly blessed.

We explore some of this Summer’s offerings, and tell you what to watch out for.

During the few months of a ‘reduced normality’ last summer it was the Open Air Theatre that was the first major London theatre to reopen, with new measures to safeguard audiences, performers and staff.

Perhaps it is therefore not surprising that this coming summer this entirely open air theatre has a full programme and assures us that “the same Covid secure procedures will be in place for as long as necessary including an initial 50 per cent reduction to seating capacity.”

The highlight will be director Timothy Sheader’s production of the classic musical Carousel ( July 31- September 25), and the theatre will open with an extended run of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (June 17 –July 24).

There is ample provision for younger theatre-goers as well.

Dragons & Mythical Beasts will open on Friday August 13, and a co-production with Southwark’s Unicorn Theatre of Anansi the Spider (ages 3-7) will take place on the theatre’s lawn from July 7-24.

Justin Audibert, the artistic director of the Unicorn, brought to life these three Caribbean and West African tales of the spider hoaxster in 2019.

It is good to see it now available to a wider London audience.

The Open Air Theatre will also be showcasing plenty of comedy acts in their MoreOutdoor series including Aisling Bea, Jimmy Carr and Luisa Omielan.

Government funding has played a vital role.

Wasfi Kani

Mr Sheader said “The financial challenges of producing large scale theatre with a 50 per cent reduction in seating capacity cannot be underestimated.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded a grant thanks to the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.”

Also offering outdoor seating is the great Opera Holland Park Festival.

They say they are rebuilding the theatre this year to allow for social distancing and a greater connection to the music and drama on stage.

The highlight of this summer’s season will be their production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro with George Jackson conducting, and set and costume designs by Takis.

They are also reviving their production of La Traviata, and have a guest season with British Youth Opera including Hansel & Gretel.

South Londoners are spoilt in having two great opera festivals within easy reach – Grange Park and Glyndebourne.

Grange Park “the theatre in the woods” is the creation of dynamic impresario Wasfi Kani.

It is a great place to enjoy an outdoor picnic, prior to music in their purpose-built theatre which is also using only half its seats.

They have a innovative season including a production of Rimsky Korskaov’s rarely performed Ivan the Terrible directed by David Poutney, and the world premiere of The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko.

Bryn Terfel is also starring in Falstaff, and a production of Puccini’s La Boheme rounds off the season.

Grange Park revellers

Glyndebourne is Grange Park’s big sister, and is similarly blessed with glorious gardens and world class opera.

This year new productions are Kat’a Kabanova by Janacek, Rossini’s Turk in Italy, and Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

They are reviving their very popular production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and will be doing a semi-staged version of Wagner’s epic Tristan & Isolde.

There will also be a series of concerts by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

For those who don’t wish to leave the comfort of their own homes, streaming is available.

To get tickets for the shows, go to whats-on season-and-events/2021-season/ performance-schedule/

Main Pic: Regents Park Open Air Theatre



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