The predominant image of outdoor theatre in the British summer is of students or amateurs shouting their heads off in Shakespeare or a forgotten French classic while the audience shifts about in deck chairs fiddling with blankets and thermos flasks.
This is still undisturbed in many parks and castle keeps from Lancaster to Ludlow, and all the way down to Porthcurno in Cornwall, where the Minack Theatre, carved in stone and perched above the ocean, provides a breathtaking elemental setting for King Lear, Peer Gynt or indeed Gilbert & Sullivan.
But in London, recent upheavals at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and at the Globe Theatre have ensured that each venue has become a major player in the capital’s cultural calendar, not just a diversion for visitors at a loose end.
Both theatres rely on sponsors and box-office income, and receive no core funding from the Arts Council. In