Bristol’s theatre and film offering is exceptional year-round, but it’s stepped up a gear throughout summer when outdoor spaces are used to put on unmissable performances and screenings. We’ve rounded up some of this year’s most show-stopping under-the-stars productions – see which you’ll be rolling out the picnic blanket for.

Outdoor cinema at Cinema Rediscovered

Image credit: Cinema Rediscovered 

Summer Screens at Bristol Zoo Gardens (28 August - 1 September)

Summer Screens will be taking over the scenic lawns of Bristol Zoo for five evenings in the last week of August. Pull up one of the deck chairs or bean bags and settle in for a night at the movies, just next door to the zoo’s animal inhabitants.

Films on the bill include crowd-pleasers like Elton John bio-pic Rocketman, Academy Award winning Green Book, and Bohemian Rhapsody, so get your tickets soon as we’re sure they’ll sell out.

Summer Screens at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Image credit: Summer Screens

Bristol Shakespeare Festival (1 – 31 July)

Every July, tales by the Bard are retold in unusual, innovative spaces across the city for Bristol Shakespeare Festival. Although we’re nearing the end of the month, there are still a handful of productions that you can catch, including two outdoors on Brandon Hill Bowling Green.

See Heartbreak Production’s super-glam, modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet on 24 and 25 July, while The Lord Chamberlain’s Men deliver their interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 26 July.

Cinema Rediscovered (25 – 28 July)

Now in its fourth year, Cinema Rediscovered at Watershed is four days of screenings, talks and events centred on the invention, innovation and mystery of cinema. It also presents the perfect opportunity to shout about Bristol’s UNESCO City of Film status.

Most of this year’s programme takes place under cover. However, the Cinema Walk is an outdoor event that follows the trail of film history in Bristol, unearthing stories about filmmakers, actors, buildings and more movie trivia connected to the city. Join the guided tour either on Friday 26 or Saturday 27 July.

The Scarlet Pimpernel at Berkeley Castle (11 August)

Watch an open-air adaptation of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, an adventure-filled story set in the French revolution, on the picturesque grounds of Berkeley Castle. The production is by the Gloucestershire-based theatre company Jenny Wren Productions, whose small troupe of actors will flit between disguises, accents and beards. 

Aerial view of Berkeley Castle, Bristol

Image credit: Berkeley Castle

The Sword in the Stone at Thornbury Castle (13 August)

IKProductions have shaken up the legendary English story of The Sword in the Stone with their tongue-in-cheek humour. The outdoor performance promises to be full of slapstick humour, brilliant storytelling and even some playful innuendo to keep the grown-ups laughing along. There’ll be a BBQ and a bar to enjoy onsite at Thornbury Castle for the evening too. 

Alice in Wonderland with Immersion Theatre at Tyntesfield (16 August)

Lewis Carroll's nonsensical story has been made into a larger-than-life musical by Immersion Theatre, with everyone invited to dress up as their favourite character from the iconic literary tale. The performance will take place on the croquet lawn at Tyntesfield, though with no flamingos or hedgehogs on this one!   

Cranford at Avon Valley Railway (21 August)

Yet another open air performance of a classic, Elizabeth Gaskell’s story about family life in the 19th century and the arrival of the railways is coming to the fitting venue of Avon Valley Railway. The Chapterhouse Theatre is staging the production to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the railway line between Mangotsfield and Bath. There is also a whole weekend of activity on 3 - 4 August to mark this milestone, including a history marquee, vintage vehicle display, live music and more. 

Luna Cinema at Ashton Court Estate (20 -22 September)

Not technically taking place in summer but we’re optimistic the sunny weather will hold out for them, Luna Cinema has three screenings planned at Ashton Court Estate in September. Pretty Woman, Mary Poppins Returns and Bohemian Rhapsody are the blockbusters you can sit through starlit viewings of, with The Luna Bar and gourmet food partners on hand to ensure a first-class outdoor cinema experience.  

Lawns outside Ashton Court and hot air balloons flying over

Image credit: Jessica McDonald

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