The Old Town Gardens are a stunning, picturesque part of Swindon and the sunken lawn and tree-surrounded Old Town Bowl might be one of the most perfect places to enjoy a spot of theatre

This weekend The Duke's Theatre company returned to Swindon for their second show at the Old Town Bowl as part of its annual 'Theatre at the Bowl' series, bringing their version of William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream and I was able to pop along. 

First of all, the atmosphere for the shows at the Bowl is incredibly relaxed, people can bring their own chairs and blankets and they can bring their own food and drink. Some were having a picnic, some cracked open a bottle of champagne and I had picked up a takeaway pizza beforehand. 

Things were also helped by the unpredictable British landing on clear skies and glorious sunshine for the outdoor performance, making sure that it was a pleasure to sit outside.

At this point, I must add that I've only ever seen one other theatre performance outside, which was Aesop's Fables at the Bristol Old Vic many years ago, but as soon as Midsummer Night's Dream started it became evidently clear that some things are simply meant to be performed outside. 

Swindon Advertiser: An assortment of camping chair-bearing audience membersAn assortment of camping chair-bearing audience members

The cast of six all took on multiple roles and through some impressive set design and magic staging had the audience gripped as they romped through the infamous hijinks of the famous bard's comic fairytale. 

Things only improved as daylight slowly started to turn to night changing the atmosphere to be a little more intimate and making the wild surroundings acutely part of the performance. 

By the play's third act which saw the actors acting as a group of actors for a disastrously bad and incredibly funny play within a play the audience's uncontrollable howls of lighter could have probably been heard from all over Old Town. 

But as well as simply providing entertainment, the performances held by South Swindon Parish Council also serve a dual purpose - raising money to preserve and keep-in-use the historic art deco Old Town Bowl.

It's never a bad thing to have more entertainment venues in the town, and having finally seen a performance there, I can confirm there are none as unique and as interesting and we're lucky to have it, so it's definitely a worthy cause. 

There are two performances left to take place this year - Jane Eyre on August 19 and The Wind In the Willows on September 9.

Tickets can be found online at