Theatre lovers around the world appreciate the two week summer open air performances conducted in London. Yet did you know, Chester in Cheshire also offers fun midsummer entertainment in Grosvenor Park off Vicar Street? The acclaimed Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre provides amusement and cultural education for audiences during July and August.
A Popular Open Air Theatre
The Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre commenced in 2010. In 2017, the Storyhouse cultural centre opened in Chester. It offers a world class library, a theatre, and a cinema. The organisation produces the popular Open Air theatrical season in Chester’s Grosvernor Park. During its initial 12 months, Storyhouse reported serving some one million customers! (Yes, you read that statistic correctly.)
This astonishing success testifies to the incredible cachet of programs produced by Storyhouse.
Some Impressive Performances
Despite opening its doors in 2017, Storyhouse has already produced classic summertime fare at the Chester park. Perhaps not surprising for an organisation serving a million people in Chester, a community with a population approaching 400,000.
In 2017, audiences watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, and Alice in Wonderland. In 2018, the productions offered during July and August included Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, and Swallows And Amazons. This year the illustrious outdoor theatre presents three more plays: Twelfth Night, Henry V, and The Borrowers.
The Long Tradition of Outdoor Theatre in The UK
Centuries ago, the public flocked to outdoor-style open theatres to attend performances of plays written by William Shakespeare and other Elizabethan writers. These productions often included bawdy, lewd material and crude double entendres. While most educated people regard these Shakespearean works as literary classics today, audiences of the period undoubtedly viewed them as very ribald entertainment in those days.
The stage offered a less bloody alternative to other popular English social amusements of the era (which included bear baiting and dog fighting). Presumably, a lot of distractions could capture the attention of the raucous unwashed public in Shakespeare’s England. The frequently illiterate working folk attending the shows written by early English playwrights likely presented a tough audience.
Modern Shakespeare in The Park
Apparently, the Open Air Theatre in Chester’s Grosvenor Park strives to re-create some elements of these community-based British forms of entertainment for the masses. Ticket buyers certainly must maintain a “stiff upper lip”. The productions proceed on schedule, rain or shine, despite any weather-related inconveniences! Every production includes a 15-minute intermission.
The sponsors do reserve the right to suspend a performance for up to an hour should a downpour disrupt the outdoor theatre. However, they accept no refunds and require 48 hours minimum advanced notice to honour ticket exchanges (pending seating availability, of course). They recommend anyone in the audience unwilling or unable to sit in the rain consider spending a little more money to purchasing seating in a covered location.
A Public Imbibing Outdoor Entertainment
Attending outdoor theatrical productions offers a way for audiences to experience captivating performances in a friendly, convivial atmosphere. The sponsors have designed the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre to appeal to everyone without discrimination, both family audiences and adults without children. The theatre offers free tickets for any child under the age of 12 if a paying adult accompanies the child. Should schools attend the event in groups, the educational institutions pay a mere £11.50 per student. Plus, they receive free teacher tickets at the rate of one per 6 primary pupils and one per 10 secondary students.
The sponsors prohibit photography of any kind during theatrical productions. However, they specifically invite patrons to snap and share selfies of their picnics in the surrounding park. Recently, the installation of new restrooms near the main door to the theatre area included the addition of baby changing facilities. This thoughtful gesture helps ensure new parents enjoy an opportunity to attend the performances without the burden of paying for child care. The online website providing information about the 2019 season also indicates patrons may purchase alcohol on the premises, or bring their own bottles.
Expect to pay a bit more for covered seating at these outdoor performances. Ticket prices do prove insignificant indeed compared with the cost of attending a professional Broadway or London theatrical production, however. The Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre offers four classes of seats and three price categories:
- Picnic Terraces: Priced between £26.50-£39.50
- Covered Terraces: Priced between £32.50-£39.50
- Picnic Spaces: Priced between £32.50-£39.50
- Premium Seats: Priced at £46.50
Within each section, customers obtain seats on a first come, first served basis. The doors open one hour before performances begin. The sponsors urge patrons to arrive as early as possible to secure good seating.
Patrons under the age of 26 and seniors over 60 receive a generous £7.00 price discount. Discounts also apply in the case of audience members who arrange to attend productions in groups. Parties of 10 or more ticket buyers obtain a £3.00 discount. Groups of 25 or more obtain a £5.00 discount.
The 2019 Theatrical Season Schedule
If you’d like to arrange to attend one of the 2019 theatrical performances, you’ll discover the dates and hours listed for each play for your convenience in the source material for this brief article (5,6,7). The calendar for this July and August include several weekly performances of Twelfth Night, Henry V, and The Borrowers. Both evening performances commencing at 7:30 and matinees (at noon and 4:30) populate the schedule.
With seating at a premium, patrons obtain advantages by reserving their seats as soon as possible. Presumably, if a performance date and time suddenly disappears from the sponsor’s list, the event has sold out. Customers may obtain tickets in person at Storyhouse on Hunter Street in Chester. Alternatively, for a modest £2.50 fee, they may order tickets from the comfort of home by calling 01244 409 113 and selecting Option #1.
Getting around Chester
Parking in Chester can be difficult during peak seasonal periods, and the park and ride facilities are very handy during these periods (free busses every 10 minutes). If you are staying within Chester there are local busses, hop on hop off tourist busses, taxis in Chester can be booked or head off to one of many taxi ranks dotted around the city.
Chester Taxi Services also offer airport transfer services. If you decide to fly into Manchester, Liverpool or London to catch one of these productions, you can arrange for one of our hired cabs to meet your flight. Let our driver escort you to and from your performance in style.
Enjoy the privacy and opulence of a luxury Chester taxi and transport service when you visit Chester’s Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre this summer. Call us now. Dial 01244 421024 to reserve your ride!