9 amazing venues to see outdoor theatre in Devon

PUBLISHED: 14:24 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 28 July 2020

The Three Inch Fools will be performing A Midsummer Night's Dream at four Devon venues this summer. Photo: Wilson Smith

The Three Inch Fools will be performing A Midsummer Night's Dream at four Devon venues this summer. Photo: Wilson Smith

Photo: Wilson Smith

From Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes there’s something for all the family at these unique venues

Beautiful Hartland Abbey will host live theatre this summer.Beautiful Hartland Abbey will host live theatre this summer.

The coronavirus pandemic has closed our theatres and is threatening the jobs of many people working in the arts in Devon. But you can still support live theatre shows by going out and watching one of these outdoor productions being staged in the county this summer.

Social distancing will be possible at these events and the venues themselves are well worth a visit – from ancient castles to rural farms. Don’t forget to take something to keep warm in for evening perfornamces and something to keep off the rain - just in case! It’s best to check with the venues for details of refreshments, toilet facilities and access.

Hartland Abbey, Hartland, North Devon

Built in 1157, Hartland Abbey on the North Devon coast was a monastery until 1539 when it became the last in the country to be dissolved by Henry VIII. It is now the home of Sir Hugh and Lady Stucley with their four married children, nine grandchildren, the dogs, Madge, Nellie and Rosie and Tim the cat. The abbey and grounds have been used many times for TV and film productions. Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, currently showing on CBBC, was filmed there last autumn. It has also appeared in a BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a German production of the Rosamund Pilcher novel The Shell Seekers, the BBC drama of John Le Carre’s The Night Manager and the 2017 film The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Last year Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier starring Lily James, Arme Hammer and Kristen Scott Thomas was filmed on the estate at Hartland Quay.

Historic Powderham Castle is the home of the Earl and Countess of Devon. Photo: Terry IfeHistoric Powderham Castle is the home of the Earl and Countess of Devon. Photo: Terry Ife

What’s on:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. The critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company present their own brand of open-air Shakespeare mayhem. Wednesday 5 August 7pm

Heartbreak Productions present Alice in Lockdown. Join Alice as she ventures through the Lockdown Looking Glass and explores a curious world filled with Cheshire Cats, White Rabbits and Red Queens, all while keeping a safe distance of 2 metres and using PPE to do her shopping. Wednesday 12 August 5pm

Illyria present The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Adapted by Oliver Gray. Kenneth Grahame’s perennial classic is brought to the stage in Illyria’s inimitable style. Thursday 3 September 3pm & 5pm

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. The Three Inch Fools - fresh out of lockdown - take to the road with only three actors, far too many musical instruments and one almighty play. The Fools are dusting off their instruments and stepping back into the great outdoors, with a riotous, three-hander version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Saturday 5 September 5pm

Tapeley Park at Instow is the stately home of Hector Christie. Photo: Mike SouthonTapeley Park at Instow is the stately home of Hector Christie. Photo: Mike Southon

Click hereto book for these shows.

Castle Hill, Filleigh, North Devon

The Fortescue family arrived in England with William the Conqueror and 15 generations have lived at Castle Hill, the family home at Filleigh, near South Molton. Situated on the southern edge of Exmoor and in the rolling hills of North Devon, Castle Hill’s beautiful gardens showcase 50 acres of historic parkland set against the breath-taking 18th Century Palladian Mansion House. The spectacular landscape features statues, follies and temples built by the Fortescue family over the years.

What’s On:

The Fortescue family has been at Castle Hill, Filleigh, for 15 generations. Photo: Gill HeavensThe Fortescue family has been at Castle Hill, Filleigh, for 15 generations. Photo: Gill Heavens

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. The critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company present their own brand of open-air Shakespeare mayhem. Thursday 6 August 6pm

Heartbreak Productions present Alice in Lockdown. Join Alice as she ventures through the Lockdown Looking Glass and explores a curious world filled with Cheshire Cats, White Rabbits and Red Queens, all while keeping a safe distance of 2 metres and using PPE to do her shopping. Monday 24 August 6pm

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. The Three Inch Fools - fresh out of lockdown - take to the road with only three actors, far too many musical instruments and one almighty play. The Fools are dusting off their instruments and stepping back into the great outdoors, with a riotous, three-hander version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Friday 4 September 6pm

Click here to book for these shows.

The Landmark Theatre at Ilfracombe was nicknamed Madonna's bra. Photo: Jim WilemanThe Landmark Theatre at Ilfracombe was nicknamed Madonna's bra. Photo: Jim Wileman

The Big Sheep, Abbotsham, North Devon

One of North Devon’s best-loved family attractions, the Big Sheep is run by Rick Turner whose family had farmed the land it sits on for six generations. The sheep-themed attraction has been going for more than 30 years and draws thousands of families every year to meet the farm animals and enjoy its exciting rides.

What’s On:

Illyria present The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Adapted by Oliver Gray. Kenneth Grahame’s perennial classic is brought to the stage in Illyria’s inimitable style. Friday 7 August 5pm & 7pm

Barmy Britain presented by Horrible Histories. We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! So Horrible Histories is bringing them live to the stage. It’s the horrible history of Britain with the nasty bits left in – to entertain the whole family this summer! Friday 14 August 5pm & 7pm

Sherlock Holmes. The critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company put dynamic detective duo Holmes and Watson through their paces as they tackle their most fiendish case yet in this delightfully inventive and hilarious show for all ages featuring live music, audience interaction and more mystery than you can shake a magnifying glass at. Wednesday 9 September 6pm

Click here to book for these shows.

Lapford Mill, Lapford, Mid Devon

Archives record a water mill at Lapford since before the Norman invasion of 1066 but the Mill building is said to have been built around 1800, after the previous one was destroyed by a fire. The park behind the mill has hosted the village’s annual music festival, Lapstock, which celebrates local musical talent for two days in the summer.

What’s On:

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Adapted by Oliver Gray. Kenneth Grahame’s perennial classic is brought to the stage in Illyria’s inimitable style. Saturday 8 August 3pm & 5pm

Click here to book.

Blackberry Farm, Milton Damerel, Holsworthy

Blackberry Farm is home to Mike, Lizzy and their three children. Mike specialises in breeding and showing pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle and the farm also supports a mixed breeding flock of sheep which include Romneys, Texels and Suffolks. Lizzy opened their award winning farm shop Lizzy’s Larder in 2002. The business has steadily grown and her new shop at Blackberry Farm is surrounded by farmland and has stunning views of Dartmoor. She also conducts the farm tours and visits local schools to help children learn about the relationship between farming and food.

What’s On:

Heartbreak Productions present Alice in Lockdown. Join Alice as she ventures through the Lockdown Looking Glass and explores a curious world filled with Cheshire Cats, White Rabbits and Red Queens, all while keeping a safe distance of 2 metres and using PPE to do her shopping. Thursday 13 August 6pm

Click here to book.

Tapeley Park, Instow, North Devon

Tapeley Park sits high on a hill overlooking the River Torridge and the North Devon coastline. Home to the Christie family for two centuries, Hector Christie is the current custodian of the estate. The Tapeley Park grounds are renowned for their beautiful gardens, particularly the Italian terraces, and include a lake, ponds, old woodland and a number of fields where Hector’s herd of Highland cattle graze. As well as a sizeable organic vegetable garden, Tapeley Park has one of the oldest permaculture gardens in the UK.

What’s On:

Barmy Britain presented by Horrible Histories. We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! So Horrible Histories is bringing them live to the stage. It’s the horrible history of Britain with the nasty bits left in – to entertain the whole family this summer! Sunday 16 August 3pm & 5pm

Heartbreak Productions present Alice in Lockdown. Join Alice as she ventures through the Lockdown Looking Glass and explores a curious world filled with Cheshire Cats, White Rabbits and Red Queens, all while keeping a safe distance of 2 metres and using PPE to do her shopping. Sunday 23 August 5pm

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. The critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company present their own brand of open-air Shakespeare mayhem. Wednesday 26 August 6pm

Click here to book for these shows.

Powderham Castle, Kenton, Exeter

Home to the Earl and Countess of Devon, Powderham Castle enjoys a unique, picturesque setting within an ancient deer park beside the Exe estuary. Over 600 years of history can be discovered within the walls of one of Devon’s oldest family homes.

What’s On:

Car Park Theatre : Horrible Histories - Barmy Britain. We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! So Horrible Histories is bringing them live to the stage. It’s the horrible history of Britain with the nasty bits left in – to entertain the whole family this summer! Saturday 15 August 11.30am & 2.30pm

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. The Three Inch Fools - fresh out of lockdown - take to the road with only three actors, far too many musical instruments and one almighty play. The Fools are dusting off their instruments and stepping back into the great outdoors, with a riotous, three-hander version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sunday 6 September 7pm

Cockington Court, Torquay

Set in an award-winning country park a mile away from the seafront, Cockington Court is an ancient manor house with more than 20 craft studios, tea rooms, walled art garden, Tudor rose garden, contemporary art gallery and a popular children’s play area.

What’s On:

Illyria present The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Adapted by Oliver Gray. Kenneth Grahame’s perennial classic is brought to the stage in Illyria’s inimitable style. Monday 31 August

Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe

Its design featuring two 20-metre high conical towers led Ilfracombe’s Landmark Theatre to be affectionately nicknamed Madonna’s Bra by locals after it opened in the 1990s. Set on the seafront of the popular resort, the outdoor theatre will be staged in the grounds.

What’s On:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. The Three Inch Fools - fresh out of lockdown - take to the road with only three actors, far too many musical instruments and one almighty play. The Fools are dusting off their instruments and stepping back into the great outdoors, with a riotous, three-hander version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Monday 31 August 2pm

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