Grab your sunnies, get out the picnic blanket and make your way to Shakespeare North Playhouse, for the Summer re-opening of the Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden! 

This year’s line-up features an exciting and dynamic array of productions, music and events inspired by the bard that’ll leave you tickled pink (don’t forget the suncream!) 

The Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden, named in honour of the late comedian and much-loved performer, serves as a memorial to his life and contributions to the arts. The outdoor space provides a unique platform and inspiring environment for creative expression and artistic exploration.

Festival Players International will be kicking off the performance garden season with their take on Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest (4-5th June) exploring the triumphant story of intrigue, magic and humor. Julius Ceaser is given the Oddsocks Productions treatment (13-15th June) expect the tearing of togas, the swishing of roman swords, some preposterous puppetry and the biggest battle scene five actors have ever created.

Bay Bryan intertwines songs and storytelling with his solo show Bay Bryan: Songs and Stories from ‘the meadow (20th June) as he transports us to the mesmerising alt-folk world of his concept album. More music on the horizon with The Merrymakers (21st June) join acclaimed performer and provocateur Jennifer Reid, and her invited guests, for an evening of open-air Folk Music and song.

In the 16th century, The School Of Night (27-28th June) was an underground sect of artists, thinkers, writers and spies, who some scholars believe wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Revived for the 21st century in 2005, this heretical troupe has risen to the challenge of Hard Bardics: improvising lost masterpieces, summoning the muses and channelling the great poets and playwrights of the past.

Rib-tickling comedy from The Loons makes it’s way to the performance garden in the form of Shakespeare- but just the deaths (27th July). The Loons have set themselves a seemingly impossible task – to perform every death scene and mentioned in all of Shakespeare’s Plays (as well as some extra gory bits)… Oh, and they only have an hour to do it!

Jennifer Reid: One Night in Prescot (1st August) is a performer of nineteenth century Lancashire dialect and Victorian broadside ballads. Attendees are in for a treat of rousing songs and passionate oratory.

The Pantaloons return to the Performance Garden with The Merry Wives of Windsor (2nd August) Expect silly slapstick, abundant anachronisms and memorable music nestled amongst Shakespeare’s poignant poetry as the critically-acclaimed The Pantaloons put their own innovative and interactive spin on this classic comedy. Also making a return to Shakespeare North are The HandleBards with The Comedy of Errors (6-7th August). Pedalling from venue to venue with all of their set, props and costumes on the back of their bikes, the HandleBards are a four-strong troupe of actors who are spending the summer bringing environmentally sustainable Shakespeare to venues across the UK. Join the troupe for a bicycle-powered production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ like you’ve never seen before.

Shake-Scene Shakespeare Double Bill (15-17th August) present two plays showing two sides of love: As You Like It and Anthony and Cleopatra – see one or see both and join the group for their Shakespeare North Playhouse debut! Shake-Scene Shakespeare is currently the only UK theatre company performing from cued parts – meaning that the actors receive solely their lines and cues and (with the exception of dances and fights) will not rehearse together before stepping on stage to perform for you.

Angelica Sprocket lives next door. Her overcoat has pockets galore! And you'll never guess what's in them... Angelica Sprockets Pockets (20-21st August) is a fun filled show that’s the perfect treat for the whole family. Prepare to be surprised, thrilled and tickled pink by Angelica Sprocket’s never-ending pockets, and the marvellous things she keeps in them.

Alas! Poor Yorick (22-24th August) is an entertaining excavation of work and political systems through the eyes of the gravediggers in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Alas! Poor Yorick draws on David Graeber, Marx and popular culture to present a relentless critique of our institutional failings, hypocritical cultural mores and political inadequacies wrapped up in a 70-minute largely silent clown show.

Four Forty Theatre are back with a British Summertime Shakespeare! Performing A Midsummer Night's Dream (27-28th August) in one night by only four actors in one hour! Experience the hilarity of one of the Bard’s best comedies condensed into a short, side-splitting show, distilling the the essence of Shakespeare’s masterpiece into an uproarious performance! Finally, Prepare for a twist in the tale of Much Ado About Nothing with Much Adogberry About Nothing (29-31st August). Forget Hero and Claudio, because this time it’s all about Dogberry, Verges, and the city watch. With uproarious wit and unexpected charm, they’ve hijacked the narrative, delivering their hilarious rendition of Shakespeare’s classic.

Find out more about visiting Shakespeare North Playhouse here.