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Open Air Theatre at Calderstones this summer

Shakespeare and Sherlock come to the open-air theatre at Calderstones Mansion House this summer.

The Reader, which runs the South Liverpool venue, has revealed a busy programme of outdoor productions which will be staged in its historic Art Deco garden theatre.

Audiences are invited to bring a chair, while food – including freshly-made pizzas - and drinks are available on site.

The season opens on July 18 when award-winning open-air theatre company Illyria arrives with its production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The show was ‘critics’ choice’ at the Edinburgh Fringe and received five-star reviews in Canada.

Then on August 4, cycling theatre troupe The Handlebards peddle into the park to present The Comedy of Errors.

The summer season continues on August 13 with a new production of Hamlet by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which promises an all-male cast, Elizabethan costumes, music and dancing.

And Illyria pays a second visit to Calderstones on August 22 with a cheeky adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic The Hound of the Baskervilles, with an evening of mystery and intrigue.

Outdoor theatre in Calderstones Park has its origins in the Holidays at Home scheme during World War II, when the local community was invited to enjoy open-air dance, musical and comedy productions.

Above: The Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House in the 1940s, and (top) as it looks today.

These performances proved so popular that in 1947, a theatre stage - designed by Liverpool’s City Architect Sir Lancelot Keay - was added to the back of the Mansion House.

Companies like Liverpool Theatre Guild, Liverpool Theatre Players, Liverpool Opera Company and Merseyside Unity Theatre all performed at Calderstones before the theatre fell out of use.The historic stage underwent a huge renovation in 2019 as part of a £5million three-year refurbishment of the Grade II Mansion House.

A team of volunteers at The Reader have just completed work to uncover the stories of the Garden Theatre through an oral history project made possible by support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The findings will be published in a new book containing old photographs and memories from local residents, alongside selected poems and literary extracts. The book will be available to buy at The Reader’s Book Shop in return for a small donation.

Full open-air performance programme details including times and ticket prices are available HERE


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