As this unexpectedly warm and sunny British summer (on the whole) comes to an end, so too, sadly, does the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre 2014 season. I have to say that it is one of my favourite London theatre venues and I always look forward to each season with optimistic anticipation.
Obviously it is one of the most unique venues under the West End banner, as it is the only one with no roof to shelter theatre-goers from the almost inevitable occasional downpour, but it is also the most romantic, in my opinion. Especially when we head into the second half at dusk, with the dazzling lights and leafy surroundings, it’s hard not to feel like you are part of some kind of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
To be fair, I have been very lucky in terms of the weather conditions and have (touch wood) never attended an Open Air performance which had to be rained off, although I do have friends that unfortunately can’t claim the same. In a strange way though, if the weather does take a turn for the worse, the evening sometimes becomes that much more memorable.
On the other hand, I have had instances where actors have been upstaged by pigeons refusing to leave the scene, and at my last visit on 3rd September to watch the returning production of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, we were haunted by one of the biggest military helicopters – the ones with not one , but two main rotor blades – I had ever seen, which decided to endlessly circle above Regent’s Park. Every time we thought we were rid, suddenly that deafening chopper sound would return, drowning out the poor actors, who, to their credit, carried on regardless. It’s all part of the unpredictability of a night out at the Open Air Theatre.
In terms of this year’s season, I was fortunate enough to attend three out of the five shows on offer. Aside from the aforementioned ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, I also got to see The Gershwins’ ‘Porgy & Bess’, as well as my pick of the season – a revival of Harold Brighouse’s comedy ‘Hobson’s Choice’, starring Mark Benton as Henry Hobson. Perhaps I am biased, being a born and bred Lancashire lad, but I am a real sucker for anything set ‘Oop North’ and this production (updated to the 1960s cobbled streets of Salford) was brilliantly put together by director Nadia Fall. Great heartwarming performances and comic timing, especially from the likes of Jodie McNee as Maggie Hobson, certainly made it an evening to remember.