The writer of Chester Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre’s hit children’s show The Secret Garden will return to the award-winning season this summer to adapt Clive King’s children’s classic Stig of the Dump.

Returning for a seventh year and running between Friday, July 1 and Sunday, August 21, this summer’s season will present Shakespeare’s magical comedy As You Like It and the farcical romp The Two Gentlemen of Verona, performed in rep with the new adaptation of Stig of the Dump.

Jessica Swale, whose other playwright projects include Nell Gwynn and Blue Stockings at Shakespeare’s Globe, is thrilled to be returning to Chester.

She said: ‘It’s such a joy to be invited back. Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre is the perfect space for family theatre, working outside in the beautiful park gardens with talented actors for such a buoyant audience.”

One of the puppets which were a distinctive feature of The Secret Garden at the Grosvenor Park in Chester
One of the puppets which were a distinctive feature of The Secret Garden at the Grosvenor Park in Chester

Audiences for the open air theatre increase year on year - more than 25,000 people watched last year’s productions.

On Chester audiences Swale said: “The audience represent a real cross section of the community, in terms of both age and background, and that’s something I really believe in. It’s also lovely to have an excuse to come back to such a beautiful city in the height of summer. I can’t wait.”

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More than 16,000 people enjoyed Grosvenor Park’s productions of Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden, both adaptations of enduring children’s stories.

No stranger to the children’s classic, Swale said: “As a child I loved Stig of the Dump. We read it as a class at primary school, I remember it well, and we all loved the adventure of it. I’m not sure who I identified with more, the imaginative Barney or cave man Stig. I was at primary school in the 80s so I think Stig and I had a similar haircut.”

Swale hinted at some things audiences can expect: “When I’m writing Stig I keep in mind the fact that the audience sit almost all the way round the space, so the more interesting we can be in the way we tell this story, the better.

The Secret Garden in all its glory
The Secret Garden in all its glory

“Song and dance allow for more movement and choreography, which works particularly well in the round. And, without giving the game away, we loved working with the animal puppets so much in The Secret Garden that I may be writing some puppets into this show too.

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“The nature of the open air setting also means you can take advantage of the fact we’re outside, in the elements. As this is a story about a boy playing in the chalk pit down in the woods, it’s lovely to have that in mind in terms of recreating Barney’s world.”

Tickets for Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre are on sale now, online at www.grosvenorparkopenairtheatre.co.uk or call 0845 241 7868.