It’s raining, it’s pouring. And I’m soaked through!
When it rains in London, it is not particularly fun. But at least the South Bank clears pretty quickly, so it’s not too bad on the way home from work. What is even less fun, though, is when it rains in London, and you’re going to the theatre in the evening. And not just any theatre. An outdoor theatre! And let’s be honest: Gene Kelly may love dancing and singing in the rain, but we don’t love watching someone dancing and singing if we’re the ones in the rain!
Shakespeare’s Globe and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre are the two that spring to mind in London, and for those of you across the pond, Shakespeare in the Park in New York. In a few weeks, Cymbeline and The Tempest will be staged in Central Park, but let’s hope the weather doesn’t kick up a tempest of it’s own!
If you are going to an open air theatre, don’t fear: here are my top 3 Tips and Tricks for surviving outdoor theatre! And at the end, a helpful list of EVERYTHING you could need!
1) Wear layers:
You can never really tell what London’s weather is going to do one moment to the next. So if it’s sunny in the morning and you’re going to a show in the evening, don’t assume it’s still going to be sunny later on!
Chances are it’ll be cold, especially if you’re at Shakespeare’s Globe. Remember, it is right next to the river Thames, and convection currents and all that sciencey stuff basically mean that the second the doors open for interval, a really cold wind will hit you! And we don’t all look as elegant as Pocahontas when it’s windy!
Shakespeare’s Globe actually rent blankets for the performance, and after the interval, almost every other person in the upstairs seating has one of these! But if you’ve gone for groundling tickets (only £5), then wear layers! At least 3! And DEFINITELY bring gloves and a scarf.
Think of it this way: if it’s too hot, you can always take one layer off but if it’s too cold…
2) It’ll probably rain. And you will get wet.
The thing about open air theatres, which quite a lot of people seem to forget, is that THEY’RE OPEN AIR, AKA OUTDOOR! Unfortunately, they don’t have the same funding that Wimbledon do for the tennis, so they can’t afford the cool, moving roof to keep everyone dry.
And this means one thing: if it rains, you are going to get wet.
If it does start raining, what you should do is very simple: pop your hood on, zip up your coat, and wait for it to pass. If you haven’t brought a coat with a hood, don’t worry Globe groundlings, because the stewards will be selling rain ponchos with hoods.
And here are just a few tips for what not to do if it starts raining, aka how not to be an absolute dick and make the lives of stewards very hard:
- Do not put up umbrellas: no one can see past/over/under them, and the steward will ask you to put it down. So just think, WWGKD: What Would Gene Kelly do!
- Don’t try and run for cover (for Globe groundlings): you have paid for a ticket standing out in the Yard. Do not try to run for cover in the lower gallery, or sit on those steps under cover. You will get shooed out by stewards, who are only doing their job.
If it looks like it’s going to rain and you’re a groundling, at the start of the show position yourself leaning against one of the walls. These are slightly covered by the roof, so you should get some shelter.
3) Or it may be sunny. And you will get burned.
If you’re lucky, you may get absolutely glorious sunshine! And this definitely makes for better pictures to post on Facebook, than one of you looking drenched and freezing! However, if it is sunny, and I know I sound like my Mum, but for goodness sake be prepared for it!
There are certain seats in any outdoor theatre which will be in the sun. And I’m not talking about, ‘Oh that’s a nice warm sunshine on my knees’ kind. I’m talking about, ‘OH GOD, WHY IS THE SUN IN MY EYES, IT’S BURNING MY FACE OFF AHHH’ kind.
Often the stage will be positioned in such a way to protect actors from the elements: so it may be slightly covered to avoid wind/rain making the stage slippery, and it may be north facing, so the sun won’t be in the eyes and so they won’t fall off the stage!
This does mean though that the sun will be in your eyes, and in Shakespeare’s Globe it’s the Middle Gallery who get the most glare. Now, the Globe does provide paper sun hats which also act as fans! But you will need to protect yourself against it too: bring sun tan lotion, sunglasses and if you’re a groundling maybe a sun hat! AND WATER! Always bring water, because god knows how much it costs in London from Starbucks, and people do occasionally faint because of the heat. Or, in the case of the Globe’s Titus Andronicus last year, the heat combined with the graphic/gory elements of the show! Over 100 people fainted throughout it’s run! So, seriously, bring water.
For sun: Sunglasses, sun tan lotion, sun hat, and water.
For rain: waterproof coat WITH hood.
For cold: jumper, gloves, and scarf.