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British summers aren’t synonymous with the phrase ‘fun in the sun’, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your umbrella out and still have a good time. And, in true British spirit, London has plenty of outdoor entertainment to keep you going this season.

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, an old favourite, is now in its 80th year. It’s keeping things pretty low-key, thanks to the Olympics, but is still hosting two major productions. On the bill will be the contemporary musical, Ragtime, which follows three families separated by race and destiny at the turn of the 20th century. And then there’ll be the Shakespeare classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But while the plays are a big part of the experience, the nights have a little extra something special.

Timothy Sheader, artistic director of the theatre, says: “It’s different to any other theatre because it’s a whole experience that starts as soon as you arrive. You can have a picnic, you can have a barbecue, Pimm’s, champagne. And it’s got the West End’s longest bar.

“Then you go into the theatre and you can see the rest of the audience, because it’s daylight or dusk. The actors can see you, and you can see them – there’s a real shared experience and conviviality.

“As it gets darker, we all lean forward and it becomes more focused. There’s a real live, present, shared experience. There’s no us and them.”

But what about that damn rain? Sheader says the play doesn’t stop when the sky opens, unless there’s a health and safety risk to the actors. And the weather often adds to the atmosphere.

“In the Twelfth Night, Feste sings ‘the rain, the rain, the rain, it commeth every day at the end’ in this beautiful lullaby,” Sheader says. “In this glorious moment on one night, it started to rain during the song and everyone was clapping because it came literally on cue – that was when the rain worked in a good way!”

If film’s more your thing, position yourself in a swanky rooftop setting for a movie instead. The group behind some pretty exciting summer night cinema trips, The Rooftop Film Club, is even having a Best Of British season at The Roof Gardens in Kensington. Coming up, there’s The Queen on June 4 and rom-com Wimbledon on 10.

Gerry Cottle Jr, the Rooftop Film Club’s founder, says: “The films honour unique British spirit and honour. We couldn’t let the Jubilee pass without taking the opportunity to screen the oscar winning great, The Queen, that leaves you with a new perspective on the royals and a newfound sense of patriotism to boot.”

For the ticket price of £25, you get a tasty fish or burger and chips dinner. There are also directors chairs to relax in and blankets are on hand to keep you toasty.

If you’re sick of 2012’s British theme already, head to The Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch or Netil House in London Fields for other classic movies including The Graduate, When Harry Met Sally, Casablanca, The Fly and The Never Ending Story.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | May 18-Sept 8 | From £20.12
Tube | Regent’s Park

Rooftop Film Club | The Roof Gardens | June 4 &10 | £25
W8 5SA

Tube | High Street Kensington


London outdoor events: The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
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