With one of the largest auditoria in London, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre is the oldest, professional, permanent outdoor theatre in Britain and our annual 18-week season is attended by over 140,000 each year.

For the first time access to the venue’s rich history is now available to everyone through our digital archive. The collection comprises items relating to productions dating back to the 1930’s including: programmes, photographs, posters and production designs. This digital archive gives access to the theatre’s rich history for the first time.

A catalogue of productions can also be found in our Past Productions.


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  • 1932

    The early closure of a disastrous play by Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, left the New Theatre - now the Noel Coward - in desperate need of a production. Robert Atkins and Sydney Carroll present a ‘black and white’ production of Twelfth Night, which they subsequently transfer to a makeshift theatre in Regent’s Park.

  • 1933

    The first full season includes a revival of the previous year’s Twelfth Night and the first of almost fifty different productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to play at the theatre over the next eighty years.

  • 1934

    George Bernard Shaw writes The Six of Calais for the theatre

  • 1934

    Jack Hawkins and Anna Neagle star as Orsino and Olivia in Twelfth Night. Robert Helpmann dances in an ‘al fresco’ ballet.

  • 1936

    Vivien Leigh plays Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII.

  • 1939

    The country is at war and the theatre produces matinee-only seasons due to the blackouts. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and the Windmill Theatre are the only two theatres in London to remain open throughout the war.

  • 1942

    Dulcie Gray and Michael Bentine join the company for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew.

  • 1945-1955

    Post-war comedies dominate the programme but are balanced with King John (1948), Faust (1949), The Winter’s Tale (1950) and Cymbeline (1952).

  • 1949

    Brick dressing rooms are built behind the stage, replacing the tents that had been used previously.

  • 1953

    Eileen Atkins appears as an attendant in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

  • 1956

    The company are invited to perform Twelfth Night and Hamlet at the Baalbek Festival in Lebanon. This marks the first of many Open Air Theatre overseas engagements; over the following years, in conjunction with the British Council, the company would perform in over twenty different countries including Dubai, Russia, Israel and Egypt.

  • 1962

    David Conville and David William establish The New Shakespeare Company as a non-profit distributing charitable company. Laurence Olivier is one of the key investors.

  • 1964

    The theatre’s production of Twelfth Night plays at Middle Temple Hall as part of the City of London Festival in the presence of HM The Queen Mother.

  • 1968

    Bernard Bresslaw plays Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Bresslaw’s long association with the theatre sees him playing Bottom many times and Dogberry twice, as well as Malvolio, Petkoff and Ferrovius, until his untimely death in 1993 just before going on stage to play Grumio.

  • 1970

    Felicity Kendal plays Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

  • 1971

    In a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Anthony Andrews plays Mustardseed.

  • 1974

    The current, fixed amphitheatre-style, auditorium is built at the cost of £150,000 followed by a workshop, a new box office, kitchen and picnic lawn. Delays in the building project cause the following season, which includes The Taming of the Shrew with Jeremy Irons and Zoë Wannamaker, to be staged at the Roundhouse.

  • 1976

    Robert Stephens, who had appeared the previous year in a production of The Zoo Story with Michael Gambon, stars alongside Edward Fox in Othello.

  • 1976

    Judi Dench appears alongside Penelope Keith and Dame Flora Robson in Sweet Mister Shakespeare. Dench’s long association with the theatre sees her both perform and direct on many occasions. She joins the Board of Trustees in 1993 and remains on the board today.

  • 1979

    A School Workshops Scheme is launched and becomes a permanent feature of the venue.

  • 1981

    Kate O’Mara appears in Much Ado About Nothing. O’Mara would appear again in The Merry Wives of Windsor, three years later.

  • 1982

    To celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the theatre a special evening is presented with HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in attendance.

  • 1983

    Lesley Garrett appears in a double bill of English 18th Century Operas; Thomas & Sally and Rosina.

  • 1983

    Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre produces its first musical, Bashville written by the then Artistic Director David William.

  • 1984

    Richard E. Grant appears in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Natasha Richardson.

  • 1985

    Ralph Fiennes makes his professional debut as Curio in Twelfth Night. A year later he would return to play Romeo to Sarah Woodward’s Juliet in a production directed by Declan Donellan.

  • 1987

    Ian Talbot, makes his debut as Artistic Director with a production of Bartholomew Fair, which uses boar pigs borrowed from London Zoo.

  • 1987

    Caroline Smith’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream earns the theatre a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Comedy of the Year.

  • 1990

    The season musical sees Roy Hudd and Anthony O’Donnell star in The Fantasticks.

  • 1991

    Judi Dench directs The Boys from Syracuse, which is nominated for four Laurence Oliver Awards, winning Best Musical Revival and Best Supporting Actress for Jenny Galloway.

  • 1994

    Theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh finances The Card which is nominated for two Laurence Olivier Awards.

  • 1994

    Tim Piggott-Smith directs Damian Lewis in Hamlet.

  • 1995

    Toyah Wilcox plays Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by John Doyle.

  • 1997

    Kiss Me Kate is nominated for three Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best Revival.

  • 1997

    All’s Well that Ends Well makes its first appearance at the theatre with Nigel Planer as Parolles.

  • 1999

    The final season of the Century sees Rachel Kavanaugh direct The Merry Wives of Windsor and Alan Strachan direct Twelfth Night. To close the season, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum marks the first appearance of a Sondheim musical at the theatre.

  • 2000

    At the cost of two million pounds, major building work commences to refurbish the auditorium and public areas of the theatre and to build the Robert Atkins Studio.

  • 2000-2001

    Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance plays for two seasons before going on a UK tour with Gary Wilmot and Su Pollard.

  • 2002

    A star-studded 70th Anniversary concert is hosted by Judi Dench and Ian Talbot.

  • 2003

    High Society is nominated at the Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Supporting Actress for Tracie Bennett. After a UK tour the production transfers into the West End’s Shaftsbury Theatre at the end of 2005.

  • 2004

    Russ Abbott plays Bottom in a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • 2005

    Timothy Sheader makes his Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre debut directing Twelfth Night.

  • 2006

    Ian Talbot revives his 2003 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which includes Sheridan Smith amongst the cast.

  • 2007

    Timothy Sheader is appointed as Artistic Director, joining William Village, who had been appointed Executive Director and Co-Chief Executive the previous year. Sheader’s first season, in 2008, sees him direct Romeo and Juliet and Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi which stars Topol.

  • 2008

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream re-imagined for everyone aged six and over is the first of many successful Shakespeare plays specially adapted for younger audiences.

  • 2009

    The Importance of Being Earnest is introduced as the first non-Shakespeare play to be produced at the theatre for several years and plays to 96.5% capacity. Hello, Dolly! wins the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical and is nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards, winning Best Musical Revival, Best Theatre Choreography for Stephen Mear, and Best Actress in a Musical for Samantha Spiro.

  • 2010

    Fundraising commences for a building project that will see a new box office, dressing room complex and office suite to be built on site, in time for the 2012 season.

  • 2010

    Stephen Sondheim visits the theatre twice to see Into The Woods. Oliver Ford Davies plays Danforth in The Crucible, directed by Timothy Sheader.

  • 2010

    Timothy Sheader directs Sondheim’s Into the Woods which becomes the highest grossing production in the history of the theatre and earns two Olivier Award nominations, winning Best Musical Revival.

  • 2011

    Jon Bausor designs an epic set for Lord of the Flies directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel. Lucy Bailey makes her directorial debut at the Park with a Hogarthian production of The Beggar's Opera. Winning two Olivier Awards (Best Musical Revival and Best Costume Design) Crazy for You becomes the highest grossing production at the theatre and transfers directly into the West End for a 6 month run.

  • 2012

    The theatre’s 80th anniversary and the year of the London Olympics. At a cost of £3.3m, the theatre re-development project is completed.

  • 2012

    Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel re-direct their 2010 production of Into The Woods in Central Park, New York.

  • 2013

    Making his first London appearance in 22 years, Robert Sean Leonard receives critical acclaim as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jane Asher appears as Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice, which celebrates its 200th anniversary.

  • 2013

    Rachel Kavanaugh returns to direct a sell-out and extended run of The Sound of Music starring Charlotte Wakefield as Maria. With over 188,000 visitors the season breaks all records.

  • 2014

    New seats are installed in the auditorium for the first time since 1974. The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess was nominated for both an Olivier and WhatsOnStage Award for Best Musical Revival.

  • 2015

    To Kill A Mockingbird completed a 25 week UK tour, which concluded with a month-long residency at the Barbican. A new adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull was commissioned for the Park to celebrate its 120th anniversary. Lord of the Flies returned to the Park for 14 performances before embarking upon a 6 month UK tour.

  • 2015

    A new digital archive was launched with the aim to preserve and share the theatre's rich history.

  • 2016

    Running Wild brings both new writing to the Open Air Theatre’s stage and a Young People’s Ensemble drawn from the local community. Jesus Christ Superstar wins the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical, alongside the original Judas, Tyrone Huntley, who wins Emerging Talent.

  • 2016

    Marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Michelle Terry takes the title role in Henry V. Matthew Kelly and Felicity Montagu appear as Mr and Mrs Bennet in a revival production of Pride and Prejudice, which then embarked on a UK tour.

  • 2017

    Jesus Christ Superstar wins an Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival, and is nominated for a further five Olivier Awards.

  • 2017

    Miriam-Teak Lee wins Best Actress in a Musical in The Stage Debut Awards for On the Town. Oliver Twist created for everyone aged six and over becomes the best selling production for family audiences.

  • 2018

    At a cost of £2.8m, new kitchens and The Regent’s Park Rehearsal Studios are opened.

  • 2018

    Jesus Christ Superstar plays a limited engagement at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

  • 2018

    The Turn of the Screw is our first co-production with English National Opera.

  • 2019

    Little Shop of Horrors wins three WhatsOnStage awards, including Best Musical Revival.

  • 2019

    Artist Lee Simmons is commissioned to design a sculpture celebrating the life of David Conville OBE, who passed away in November 2018. As founder of the company, Artistic and Managing Director, Chairman and Honorary President, David retired in 2012 following a 50-year association with the theatre.

  • 2019

    Evita becomes our fastest-selling and highest-grossing production to date, going on to win the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical.

  • 2020

    Covid-19 saw all theatres in the UK close. On 9 July it was announced that outdoor theatres could reopen and so, following stringent safety guidelines, on 14 August, we opened Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert. This was the first live West End production to reopen during the Covid crisis.

  • 2021

    James Pidgeon is appointed as Executive Director of Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.

  • 2021

    Joanna Riding returned to the Open Air Theatre, and to the production of Carousel, as Nettie Fowler in 2021. Joanna previously won the Best Actress in a Musical Olivier Award for playing Julie Jordan in the 1992 National Theatre production. She has also previously appeared at the park in Lady Be Good (1992).

  • 2021

    Our rescheduled 2020 season productions Romeo and Juliet and Carousel took place from 17 June. Social distancing meant that they initially played to a reduced capacity of 639 prior to welcoming back full houses from 21 July. We also co-produces Anansi the Spider with Unicorn Theatre.