Our AHRC-funded projectAtmospheric Theatre: Open-Air Performance and the Environment, explores how written and performed open-air drama might help to raise awareness of air quality and atmospheric conditions. Despite the fact that we take in around 250 million litres of air over the course of our lifetimes, its presence is easily overlooked. Invisible and ungraspable, the air rarely intrudes itself on our attention – even when urban and domestic pollution means that the element we must consume to survive might simultaneously be poisoning us. For scientific, technological, and medical responses to the threat of air pollution to be most effective, this situation urgently needs to change. Through this project, we seek to undo the invisibility of air, illuminating our pressing need to pay more attention to this life-giving element.

Our project has focused mainly on the drama of William Shakespeare, which is often performed at open-air venues. Through our research, we have identified the importance that questions of air quality and/or airy spaces and characters acquire within many of Shakespeare's plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. This website contains a range of educational resources based on that research – including lesson plans and associated materials – that can be used to teach high-school pupils about the significance of aerial themes and environments in Shakespeare’s drama. You will also find video interviews in which open-air theatre directors and performers discuss their experience of performing plays by Shakespeare and other dramatists outdoors, as well as various related resources for exploring open-air theatre practice. The latter set of materials includes an indicative database and location map of UK venues that have hosted open-air performances in the past, an indicative database of theatre companies who perform mostly or exclusively outdoors, and more detailed case studies of selected sites and companies. These resources could be used in conjunction with our educational resources and video interviews, enabling pupils to investigate open-air practice and outdoor Shakespeare in more detail, or by anyone interested in learning more about open-air performance and opportunities, whether in their local area or elsewhere in the UK. Throughout the project, we have worked closely with partners at the Minack Theatre, Willow Globe, and The Dukes, alongside various theatre companies and practitioners, and that collaborative research into open-air practice has informed the resources on this website. We hope you enjoy learning more about open-air theatre, and that you have a chance to participate in or experience an outdoor performance in the near future!