THE GREAT OUTDOORS
As the Chelsea Flower Show returns this spring, Sarah Riches finds that London comes alive in the sunshine with live music, outdoor opera and canalside restaurants
Where to enjoy alfresco food, drink and theatre across the capital.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre launches its 2017 season with the dance musical On the Town (from 19 May), directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie. Later in the summer you can also watch two plays inspired by Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities by Matthew Dunster, and Oliver Twist, adapted by Anya Reiss. The season wraps up with Jesus Christ Superstar, which was a hit last year.
You can also watch theatre under the stars at Shakespeare’s Globe –a careful reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, which staged William Shakespeare’s plays. This month catch Romeo and Juliet, which is directed by the English National Opera’s artistic director Daniel Kramer, and the comedies Nell Gwynn (2-13 May) and Twelfth Night Taking everything from the Bermuda Triangle to a ruined abbey for inspiration, this year’s Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea (23-27 May) is set to wow once more. Since 1862, the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual garden design show has celebrated the arrival of spring with gardens bursting with blooms – and every year seems to top the last.
This season there are nine show gardens, including show veteran Ishihara Kazuyuki’s oasis. Inspired by the Kyoto Imperial Palace, it features a Japanese pond surrounded by pines and maples. Another highlight is a Yorkshire garden with cliffs, a beach and ‘sea’ lapping against abbey ruins. (from 18 May). If you want to embrace the outdoors, choose standing tickets, which offer the closest view of the stage and cost just £5.
Later in the year, there are also live performances in Battersea Arts Centre’s
There are also five fresh gardens, one of which is Mexican-themed – expect droughttolerant plants set against orange and hot-pink walls. Meanwhile, the Bermuda Triangle has a palm tree, tropical plants and volcanic landscapes inside a pyramid. It is designed by one of the show’s youngest exhibitors, award-winning 23-year-old Jack Dunckley.
As well as the gardens, the show boasts a packed programme of talks, botanical-themed crafts, restaurants serving edible blooms, and experts red-brick open-air courtyard; free shows in The Scoop, an alfresco amphitheatre situated on the South Bank near Tower Bridge; and outdoor opera at Opera Holland Park. Opera shows include Don Giovanni (from 3 Jun). who are on hand to provide advice for your own garden. With celebrities and royals flocking to the show, tickets to this prestigious event sell out fast. If you are not successful, don’t worry as London has plenty of other green places to explore – in fact, almost 40 per cent of the city is made up of parks and open spaces, making it one of the greenest cities in the world. And we are only getting greener, as there are plans to open a garden bridge across the river. Until then, it’s time to see the city in full bloom.