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Illyria’s Outdoor Production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Illyria’s Outdoor Production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare, popcorn and a picnic blanket – why outdoor theatre with kids is perfect.

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“The course of true love never did run smooth” … especially in the complex love rectangle in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s the perfect play to introduce children to Shakespeare… full of humour, devious fairies and even a character called “Bottom.” It’s like Shakespeare wrote it with children in mind! 

If you’re looking for a way to introduce your kids to Shakespeare, then look no further than Illyria’s outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’ll be honest, I was slightly apprehensive about taking my sons, aged 5 and 8, to their first full length play, with a finishing time a whopping 3 hours after our youngest son’s bedtime; but I needn’t have worried.

The play was absolutely fantastic; the acting was top notch, full of humour, enunciated clearly (very important with Shakespeare) and cleverly devised. My sons were enthralled.  I’ve seen A Misdsummer Night’s Dream three times, and what set Illyria’s adaptation apart was that it was incredibly zany, lively and funny. There was some innuendo, but it was subtle enough to go entirely over my boy’s heads, but for us adults to chuckle at it. 

We went to see the first performance of the tour, at the stunning Fountains Abbey in Ripon.

Set in the Cloisters of the ruined abbey, 500 guests set up their camping chairs and picnic blankets for the performance. There was the sound of happy chatter as families picnicked and sipped wine before the performance began.

Illyria’s Outdoor Production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I took as many types of finger food that I could think of in an effort to keep my boys quiet, and it worked a treat. Blueberries, popcorn, hummus and veggies were munched on as they watched the show.

It was the first event of that scale at Fountain’s Abbey for 5 years, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell that. The front of house staff, hipster portable bar and theatre company itself operated with such ease that you would think it was mainly a theatre venue, not a National Trust property.

Being able to enjoy outdoor theatre again reminded me of why I love it. There’s nothing more quintessentially British or atmospheric then wrapping up under a blanket and watching a Shakespeare play with a stately home or ruined castle as the backdrop. It always gets chilly as the night goes on though, so it might a good idea to bring layers to put on and quite possibly a raincoat! I’d also recommend arriving at the venue as soon at the doors open so you can set up your picnic blanket with the best view – if the kids need to run off some steam before the performance, then there’s usually plenty of green space at these venues to do that.

I grew up going to outdoor theatre shows with my parents and they were always so memorable, and it’s a tradition that I want to keep going with my children. It was so special to take the children for their first experience of Shakespeare with their grandad. You can tell a performance is great when a 60 something year old man, and his 5 year old grandson are giggling together at it. 

Illyria’s Outdoor Production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Illyria Theatre Company are touring the UK with A Midsummer Nights Dream all summer, check below to find a performance near you. Prices vary depending on the venue.

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