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Six UK theatres to get excited about

After a much-too-long hiatus, stages across the British Isles are coming back to life this month. Theatre critic Lyn Gardner opens the curtains on the hottest tickets from across the country


Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Pitlochry is a gem of a Victorian town situated on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It boasts a hugely successful theatre, which this summer will be staging outdoor performances in its new amphitheatre and bandstand. From June onwards, there’s something for everyone. Look out for David Greig’s Adventures with the Painted People, which offers a compelling encounter between a Roman poet and a Pictish witch on the banks of the River Tay, and a brand-new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, in which Mr Toad and friends really will frolic on the riverbank.

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Watermill, Bagnor

The Watermill can stake a claim to be the prettiest theatre in England. A river runs through the grounds, ducks waddle across the lawns and, inside the converted watermill, there is a stage the size of a postage stamp. Nonetheless, it has seen transfers to the West End and Broadway. Take a trip to nearby Highclere Castle, famous from TV series Downton Abbey, and enjoy a cream tea or dinner in the theatre restaurant before taking a bite out of one of the cultural offerings that this summer will include The Hound of the Baskervilles and As You Like It (both in the theatre) and a musical version of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories performed in the delightful gardens. 

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Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

The Stephen Joseph, the UK’s first theatre in the round, is a culture powerhouse situated in the gorgeous seaside town of Scarborough, which boasts two fine beaches, a Victorian funicular railway, a spectacular ruined castle, and an oriental park complete with boating lake. Stroll along the promenade and take in a world première from theatrical master Alan Ayckbourn, one of our most successful playwrights. His latest play – his 85th – is called The Girl Next Door and is a romance set during lockdown. It’s followed by Laura Wade’s witty domestic comedy, Home, I’m Darling

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Minack, Porthcurno

The most spectacular theatre in the UK is perched on the cliffs of southwest Cornwall just a few miles from Land’s End. Built by hand, the Greek-style amphitheatre (also opening image) has been delighting audiences since 1932. Even walking down the rocky steps into the theatre is a bit of an adventure. There is no wilder and more beautiful place to see a play – with the backdrop of the sea never distracting but rather concentrating the attention. The summer season is split between music, comedy and theatre with upcoming musicals including The Further Adventures of Doctor Dolittle and Tell Me on a Sunday.  

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Gillian Lynne Theatre, London

Named in 2018 in honour of the great choreographer Gillian Lynne, whose dance moves made the stage version of Cats such a success, this theatre plays host this summer to the world première of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much anticipated new musical version of Cinderella. Situated in the heart of Covent Garden, the theatre is perched on the site of a 17th-century tavern where Nell Gwynne was reputed to drink. Carrie Hope Fletcher stars as Cinderella in a show that departs from the traditional fairy tale with a book written by Emerald Fennell, who recently scooped an Oscar for her screenplay for Promising Young Woman, and whose talents extend to playing Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown

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Theatr Clwyd, Mold

North Wales’ leading theatre, named the Stage’s 2020 Regional Theatre of the Year, is readying for no fewer than four world premières over the coming months, including a new comedy by Alan Harris called For the Grace of You Go I, which opens in June. Perched on a hill a few miles from Chester, Theatr Clwyd is set in beautiful countryside and this summer will be offering a terrific programme of music, comedy and theatre on its outdoor stage, including the blissfully funny How to Win Against History, a costume drama musical about the eccentric 5th Marquess of Anglesey, who turned the family chapel into a theatre and squandered a fortune on fabulous frocks.

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