Nature's London theatre
Located in the grounds of London’s Regent’s Park, the award-winning ‘Open Air Theatre’ is one the city’s hidden theatre gems and a firm favourite for both resident theatre-goers and tourists alike.
Surrounded entirely by parkland, it is a very unusual place because both its stage and auditorium are completely uncovered and open to the sky. The only sheltered area is the space underneath the tiered auditorium which houses one of the longest bars of any theatre in London – stretching the entire length of the seating.
For 15 weeks each summer, the outdoor theatre bursts into life, playing to audiences of over 1,200 people each night in its remarkable woodland setting. It houses an extensive backstage area complete with green room for the company and technical team, a full wardrobe, makeup and wigs department, a workshop for the maintenance of stage sets and numerous offices for stage management, sound and other production facilities.
In May 2018, construction of a new rehearsal building has allowed the theatre to bring all of its production facilities together on the site for the first time since it was established in 1932. With the double-height rehearsal studio at its centre, the building provides a new commercial kitchen, offices, green room and smaller rehearsal rooms for voice work.
The details of the structure were designed to reinforce the magic of the setting in which trees, plants and sky surround the visitor. The walls are clad with dark stained larch which helps to blur the distinction between building and landscape while creating a natural extension to the existing buildings along the edge of the site.
The new building has been constructed from a prefabricated cross laminated timber panel system. This lightweight structure was erected in just a few days (when the Theatre was closed) in winter and required relatively small foundations which minimised the impact on tree roots.
One of the most dramatic rooms is the rehearsal and dance studio. Benefitting from both artificial and natural daylight, it is dominated by its full length, full height mirrored wall used by dancers and actors to practise and reflect their movements. Here it was very important to dampen and keep overflowing sound to a minimum in order to preserve the natural setting and not interrupt rehearsals and activities outside. This has been achieved by lining the walls with large areas of Troldtekt acoustic panels.