From children’s classics to competitive Shakespeare shows, Greater Manchester’s picturesque parks and gardens invite audiences to grab a fold-out chair and settle in with a pile of snacks to enjoy some of the best theatre in the country amongst breathtaking outdoor scenery, promising a quintessential English summer experience for guests of all ages.

The Great Gatsby | Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre | Chester | Fri 21 Jul - Sun 27 Aug | 7.30pm | From £24.15

Promising a raucous, hedonistic production of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s portentous novel, Grosvenor Park Outdoor Theatre begins its run of The Great Gatsby on Fri 21 Jul. Set in 1922 New York, the tragedy of Jay Gatsby unfolds against a backdrop of doomed bacchanalian excess, as dream-chasing Nick Carraway befriends the mysterious yet charismatic millionaire and becomes embroiled in a maelstrom of impossible love, dubious wealth and fatal jealousy.

Grosvenor Park Rd, Chester CH1 1QQ
Open Air Theatre Programme | Ordsall Hall | Wed 26 Jul - Tue 15 Aug | £9-£19.50

In collaboration with some of the post popular touring companies on the circuit, Ordsall Hall hosts a programme of four family-friendly performances set in their idyllic outdoor gardens.

On Wed 26 Jul at 7pm, Handlebards presents their own riotously energetic production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which humans and fairies collide across several hilarious interconnected stories, each imbued with entrancing woodland magic.

On Thu 27 Jul at 7pm, Pantaloons invites audiences to settle in for an uproarious adaptation of Jane Austen’s Regency romcom, Emma. Fast-paced, physical and funny, the production follows well-intentioned matchmaker Emma as her attempts to play Cupid result in a rolling snowball of romantic chaos.

On Wed 9 Aug at 1pm, the acclaimed IKP theatre company delivers a ‘delightfully daft’ account of Hercules, in which the Greek hero contends with monsters, mountains, mortality and his own love life in a mythical adventure for all ages.

Finally, on Tue 15 Aug at 1pm, rural touring troupe Folksy Theatre perform The Ugly Duckling, an uplifting story ideal for younger theatre-goers. Filled with live music, puppetry and colourful characters, the charming children’s classic follows an awkward, outcast little duck who navigates hecklers, hunters and cruel weather on an odyssey of self-discovery.


322 Ordsall Ln, Salford M5 3AN, Tel: 0161 872 0251
The Secret Garden | Quarry Bank | Wed 16 Aug | £12 - £19

Join Mary Lennox as adventures through the countryside, encountering magical creatures and new friends in search of the secret garden. The timeless, family-friendly tale comes to Wilmslow’s National Trust Quarry Bank Park on Wed 16 Aug. The show begins at 6.30pm and will run for two hours, including a 20-minute interval. Babies under 12 months go free.

Styal Rd, Styal, Wilmslow SK9 4HP, Tel: 01625 527468
The Merry Wives of Windsor | Hare Hill | Sun 20 Aug | £12-£15

After down on his luck Falstaff decides to try and change his fortunes by seducing the wives of two wealthy merchants, his plan unravels when both women realise they’ve been sent identical letters. Taking their revenge, they begin to play tricks on Falstaff during his visits, and his humiliation unfolds in hilarious fashion set to live music. The Merry Wives of Windsor comes to The National Trust’s Hare Hill in Macclesfield on Sun 20 Aug, with the performance beginning at 7pm.

Hare Hill Cheshire, SK10 4PY, Tel: 01698 854409
David Walliams' 'Bad Dad' | Sat 19 - Sun 20 Aug | 2pm, 5pm, 6.30pm | £11.50-£62

Bringing the endearingly mischievous tale of a retired racer-gone-rogue to life in Didsbury’s Fog Lane Park, Heartbreak’s production of David Walliams’ Bad Dad charts the whirlwind story of Frank and his father, Gilbert the Great, a former superstar track king who agrees to become a getaway driver for local villains in order to provide for his family.

The first in Heartbreak’s outdoor theatre series in Manchester, audiences are invited to grab a folding chair and pack a picnic (and a waterproof) as the unwitting dad-and-lad crime outfit skid through car chases and convicts in a race to clear Gilbert’s name.

The 2pm Saturday showing is a BSL interpreted performance, and has an allocation of 100 ‘Pay What You Can’ tickets.

139 Fog Ln, Parkville Rd, Park, Manchester M20 4UP, Tel: 0161 445 4241
MacHamLear | Fog Lane Park | Didsbury | Thu 31 Aug - Fri 1 Sep | 7pm | £11.50-£62

A show which ‘shamelessly exploits the genius of England’s most celebrated writer’, Heartbreak Productions presents a captivating new piece of theatre which asks audiences to vote on Shakespeare’s undisputed best play. Devised by award-winning playwright Michael Davies, MacHamLear forms Round One of a unique thespian competition, pitting Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear against one another in a Battle of the Bard. Across two nights in Fog Lane Park, different groups of esteemed actors make their case for their own chosen tragedy, and audiences decide which of the three will progress to the next stage of the contest.

139 Fog Ln, Parkville Rd, Park, Manchester M20 4UP, Tel: 0161 445 4241
Sense & Sensibility | Sat 2 - Sun 3 Sep | 2.30pm, 5pm, 7pm | £11.50-£62

Restaging Jane Austen’s delightfully acerbic social satire in an aptly tranquil setting, Heartbreak’s open-air adaptation of Sense & Sensibility follows the exhausting tribulations of Regency romance and the unyielding propriety of high society at Didsbury’s own Matchmaker’s Ball on Sat 2 and Sun 3 Sep.

As ladies Elinor and Marianne Dashwood each hope to meet a man of reasonable appearance and substantial fortune, they cast themselves headlong into the polite carnage of beau monde revelry in search of an appropriate suitor.

Ideal for lovers of idyllic English courtship and well-heeled period frollicking, the outdoor production of Austen’s timeless literary classic rounds off a summer of outdoor theatre with a weekend of riotous period whimsy.

The 2.30pm Saturday showing is a BSL interpreted performance, and has an allocation of 100 ‘Pay What You Can’ tickets.

139 Fog Ln, Parkville Rd, Park, Manchester M20 4UP, Tel: 0161 445 4241
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Fri 11 Aug 2023