Actors head to the great outdoors

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There’s a sunny outlook for the summer months of 2013 – at least for fans of outdoor theatre in the Red Rose county.

The summer months will see 12 different shows on offer in Preston, Lytham, Chorley and Lancaster.

First up for the picnic hamper brigade is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted for the stage by Laura Turner, which will see Lincoln-based Chapterhouse Theatre Company making a second visit to Lytham to open a season of four plays at Lytham Hall on Friday, June 15.

Jennifer Jordan, 29, in her first summer season with Chapterhouse, plays Elizabeth Bennet in the year that marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s own favourite novel. She is looking forward to the challenge.

She said: “It’s a skilled and thoughtful adaptation, and we have very much been enjoying the rehearsals. Our visit to Lytham is the opening night on our 25-venue tour, so there will be a real sense of occasion.”

The Dean Taylor Company, based in Walton-le-Dale and touring for the 11thth year in Lancashire, will break new ground with a visit to Lytham’s Lowther Gardens and with their choice of Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell, instead of a Shakespeare play, this summer.

You can catch them at Chorley Cricket Club on Sunday, June30, Preston’s Avenham Park Pavilion on Wednesday, July 3 and in Lytham on Sunday, July 14.

Hoghton Tower, near Preston, will welcome a company new to Lancashire this year, with a visit from the cleverly-named Handlebards company, who are touring open air productions of Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet. Incredibly, the four actors will travel the 926 miles between venues by bicycle, and will pedal into Hoghton Tower on July 19 and 20.

Illyria, widely acclaimed as one of the country’s best open air touring troupes, visit Lytham Hall three times.

Their innovative style will see a cast of five doubling up furiously as they present Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by Oliver Gray, on Sunday, July 7, with a 6pm start.

Lytham St. Annes-born James Dangerfield will play the lead role of Orlando.

Just 10 days later, on Tuesday, July 16 at 7.30pm, Illyria bring their third Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to Lytham Hall, as a cast of seven portray the High Lord Executioner, Three Little Maids, the entire Japanese court and The Mikado himself.

Finally, on Bank Holiday Sunday, August 25 at 4pm, Illyria will bring their stage adaptation of Dick King Smith’s children’s favourite Babe the Sheep-Pig to round off the Lytham Hall season.

Lizzy Dive, a regular with the casts of Illyria’s plays, feels the relaxed atmosphere of Lytham Hall appeals to children and adults alike.

She said: “We always have a very warm response on our visits to Lytham Hall, where the sheltered setting in the trees and absence of traffic noise are ideal for the actors and for the audience alike. Last summer’s attendance for The Twits of was the best of our tour.”

Families will also again enjoy Wednesday afternoons from July 24 to August 21, when Lytham’s Lowther Rose Gardens will host the Storytellers Theatre Company, from Pendle, who will present five outdoor performances for children, including The Wind in the Willows.

The Duke’s promenade performances in Williamson Park, Lancaster are back this summer. Director Joe Sumsion and his company will present Robin Hood from Friday, July 5 to Saturday, August 10 in a production ideally suited to the varied terrain of the park.

Details of the tours, plays and booking arrangements can be found on the websites of the companies and venues now.