Canterbury Shakespeare Festival

Tickets available here

"Good luck with the festival. My first Shakespeare play was 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in the woods below Eliot College. I was Bottom and Princess Anne supplied the donkey. Very best of luck."
Tom Wilkinson, 2015
Alumnus of the University of Kent

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The Vision of the Festival

Canterbury has long been associated with one of England’s finest literary talents. We rightly celebrate the fact that the characters from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales finish their pilgrimage here in the city.

But we believe that there is room to celebrate another of England's literary sons here in the city. Writing some two hundred years after Chaucer, William Shakespeare produced work which expresses the human condition in the most profound way. His plays still speak to us four hundred years after his death.

This leaves us with the challenge of where to stage our plays. Looking around the city, we are constantly reminded of Canterbury’s literary and ecclesiastical connections, but there is also a great deal of natural beauty here. Ours is a city full of green spaces as well as history.

Taking these factors together, it seems right to honour both the bard and the beauty of our city, by staging some of his works outside in the open air. This vision is the driving force behind the Canterbury Shakespeare Festival, which will continue this year in July and August after the huge success of our two shows last year Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In fact, last year was so successful that this year we have doubled the number of productions that will be produced.

Come and join us as we celebrate Shakespeare in the open spaces of our city this summer.


Benjamin J Chamberlain

Festival Director
Canterbury Shakespeare Festival


Festival Patrons
Rita Hayes
Paloma Vacarce
Canterbury BID
Canterbury Arts Council

Community Engagement

Canterbury Shakespeare Festival doesn’t just offer a summer programme of high quality performances. We are also committed to providing a range of other opportunities, through which the community can get involved with and learn about ours and the Bard’s work. We believe that in doing so; we can help foster a shared love of and enthusiasm for one of the most historically significant, and profoundly talented literary figures to emerge from this part of the world in the last four (just over, in fact) centuries. His influence doesn’t stop just south of the Thames!

Although our previous efforts have mostly been in school outreach, we are eager to work with a number of community partners to create exciting events in and around Canterbury. If you would like to know more, or discuss the possibility of working with us, please get in touch at and we’ll see what we can do.


Tickets available here!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Friday 4th – Sunday 6th of August (Greyfriars Gardens) +8


One hot Midsummer’s night in 1935 Theseus is hosting his annual dance. Four young lovers, torn apart by their families’ wishes, flee the party and find themselves caught in an enchanted forest where fairies rule and love is just a game of chance. While a feuding Fairy King and Queen are at war, their paths are crossed by a troupe of travelling actors from a local Women’s Institute. Chief mischief-maker Puck is on-hand to play her tricks and bewitch and bewilder us all.


Show Times

Friday 4th – 7.30pm
Saturday 5th – 2pm and 7.30pm
Sunday 6th – 2pm

Julius Caesar: Tuesday 8th – Thursday 10th and Tuesday 15th – Thursday 17th (St Augustine’s Abbey)


Julius Caesar is the story of the death of one of the greatest Romans to have ever lived. It is the story of the man, the people who killed him, and the people who survived him. Performed among the Roman era ruins of St Augustine's Abbey, this production aims to bring the full glory of Caesar's downfall to the stage, a play which is just as fresh today as it was when it was written Shakespeare's script conveys the themes of betrayal and the quest for power in ways that have since seeped into the public conscious


Show Times

Tuesday 8th – 7.30pm
Wednesday 9th – 7.30pm
Thursday 10th – 7.30pm
Tuesday 15th – 7.30pm
Wednesday 16th – 7.30pm
Thursday 17th – 7.30pm

Othello: Friday 11th – Sunday 13th of August (Eliot College Courtyard) TICKETED


What happens when love becomes the enemy? Dive into the dark depths of this famous Shakespeare play and discover the extremes humanity can reach. Othello is slowly manipulated to distrust his innocent wife in a jealous plot for revenge, orchestrated by the conniving Iago. In this 2 hour contemporary staging, Canterbury Shakespeare Festival will explore the darkest parts of this horrific story. Watch as the characters wrestle with their own conscience and commit the most unimaginable acts.


Show Times

Friday 11th – 7.30pm
Saturday 12th – 3.15pm and 7.30pm
Sunday 13th – 2pm

Cymbeline: Friday 18th – Sunday 20th of August (Eliot College Footpath Labyrinth)

A Quote From The Director: 'Upon first reading the play, I found myself laughing aloud as Shakespeare used the tropes expected of him, but exerted them in such a way that perhaps he could have been poking fun at his previous work. A ridiculous plot that likens itself to farce, Cymbeline may have been Shakespeare treading new waters and humouring himself.'


Imogen, King Cymbeline’s strong-willed daughter, is heartbroken when her father banishes her lowly husband, Posthumus. She refuses to transfer her affections to her buffoon of a stepbrother, who she is instead expected to marry. If only Cymbeline’s two first born children hadn’t been abducted… Meanwhile, Rome is demanding unpaid tribute money from Britain, Posthumus makes a bet with a sly Italian man, rumours of infidelity begin to arise and the Queen seems to be making her own cunning plans. Originally set in Roman Britain and defined by many as a tragic-comedy, we present this less familiar Shakespeare play as a farcical fairytale, teasing out its humour in the round on the Labyrinth.


Show Times

Friday 18th – 7.30pm
Saturday 19th – 2pm and 7.30pm
Sunday 20th – 2pm

Claudius: Monday 7th and 14th, with Sunday 13th (St Augustine’s Abbey)


King Claudius is dead. As are; Queen Gertrude, Prince Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. A young Horatio tries to make sense of the events leading to King Claudius's death, and the passing of his friend Hamlet. ‘Claudius’ is a reimagining of the much-loved ‘Hamlet’, which focuses on Claudius, and his seizure of power. The production will be a heavily cut and rearranged interpretation of Shakespeare's classic play, with Claudius being the main Protagonist. It will be performed in an experimental style, using movement alongside the text. Set in the present day, the play aims to explore the theme of power in a modern context.


Show Times

Monday 7th – 7.30pm
Sunday 13th – 7.30pm
Monday 14th – 7.30pm

Shakespeare’s Margret Thatcher: Sunday 6th and Sunday 20th (The Canterbury Tales Churchyard)


It is a cold night in the afterlife, and William Shakespeare is preparing to host one of his famous dinner parties. There will be food, drink, famous guests, and most importantly, the unveiling of his latest work: a history play detailing the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. This play about a play is both a fantastical comedy and a Shakespearian tragedy. At one moment you are watching Benjamin Franklin and Dorothy Parker attempting to outwit each other, and the next you are pulled into the depths of a political tale, full to the brim with conquest and betrayal. With both parts performed by a singular cast, Shakespeare’s Margaret Thatcher is unlike anything else you are likely to see.


Show Times

Sunday 6th – 7.30pm
Sunday 20th – 7.30pm

2015 Productions

A Midsummer Night's Dream

"Lord, what fools these mortals be... "
A Midsummer Night's Dream, 3.2


Shakespeare weaved three interconnecting plots together to give us the heady mix that is A Midsummer Night's Dream. The bard effortlessly throws together commoners and aristocracy, lovers unrequited and comic, and the worlds of men and faeries. A delightful entertainment for a summer evening.

Romeo and Juliet

"Some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date with this night's revels... "
Romeo and Juliet, 1.4


If there's ever a Shakespeare play that gets under the radar and strikes us in the heart, it must surely be his early romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. This poignant, tragic tale of star-crossed lovers is ia potent mix of politics, testosterone, and beautiful, doomed love.

2016 Productions

As You Like It

“All the world’s a stage…”
As You Like It, 2.7


Exiled from her home, Rosalind escapes with her cousin to the Forest of Arden, only to find the man she loves there as well. Coincidently, she is disguised as a man. Featuring a melancholic lord, a knowing fool, a deposed duke, a love-sick shepherd and a flock of sheep, As You Like It explores love, gender and freedom in all its complexities.


“Something wicked this way comes.”
Macbeth, 4.1


Ambition, greed and history combine to make this production of Shakespeare’s ‘unspeakable’ Scottish play a night of unmissable tragedy. Set within the grounds of the historic Norman Castle in the centre of Canterbury, witness the bloodthirsty Macbeth's as their unending search for glory sets them on a path of self-destruction.

The Merchant Of Venice

“If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
The Merchant of Venice, 3.1


A production of Shakespeare's black comedy, involving a reneged deal with possibly fatal consequences, a sympathetic villain who may not be all he seems, a pound of flesh that has to come from somewhere and a few love stories (some comic, some tragic, all romantic).

Twelfth Night

“If music be the food of love, play on.”
Twelfth Night, 1.1


One of Shakespeare’s most well-known comedies, exploring the pain of unrequited love, satire and mistaken identity, all highlighted by beautiful verse and songs. It follows the journey of Viola, who has been shipwrecked and separated from her brother, as she meets a love-sick duke, mourning lady, scheming drunk, vain pedant, musical fool and cunning maid.




Please note, you will have to bring proof of eligibility with you to the performances. Concession tickets are available to those under 18 years of age, students, senior citizens, unemployed and those who are registered disabled.



There is no reserved seating available for any of the Festival’s performances. There will be a limited number of chairs at each venue, made available on a first come, first served basis. If you or one of your party has particular need of a chair, please email ahead or let one of the stewards know as soon as you arrive.

We invite audiences to bring their own blankets and picnic/camping chairs, in addition to food and drink to enjoy throughout the performances, in order to fully take advantage of the alfresco theatre experience. Please remember to dispose of any rubbish responsibly, and bring appropriate clothing for an outdoor event.

Due to the outdoor nature of the festival we advise audience to bring umbrellas, raincoats, bottled water and sun cream. We often at the mercy of the weather so we advise everyone to come prepared.

Wet Weather Policy:
Our current policy is that if it is gently raining from the start of the show or during we will continue the performance. If the rain becomes to strong then we shall cancel the performance. We will offer audience members tickets to another production of the same piece or to another production at a later date. If this is not suitable a refund can be offer to audience members but only available in cash.

We kindly request that no reviews be written or published without the Festival's consent. This is in respect of the commitment and hard work of all those involved in the Festival, which is entirely voluntary.

Audiences are advised to arrive no later than 10 minutes before a performance (7.20pm for evening performances, for a 7:30pm start; 1:50pm for matinees, for a 2:00pm start), to find suitable seating and settle in before the shows. This also gives you time to purchase any food or drink that you may want before the show begins.
Yes, in fact it is encouraged! However, please remember to dispose of any rubbish responsibly.
A parental advisory warning will be attached to any performance that has content which may be considered inappropriate for young children. However, at Canterbury Shakespeare Festival we actively encourage the participation of children and young people in the full scope of what Shakespeare and theatre in general have to offer, so although measures will be taken to ensure that all of the performances will be inclusive events in the greatest possible respect, we cannot guarantee that everything on offer will be to everybody’s tastes. What we hope, though, is that each performance will be a memorable and deeply enjoyable experience.
In short: children of all ages are happily welcomed to our performances!
Each production will last no longer than 2 and a half hours including interval.
We kindly ask that audiences refrain from using cameras, camera phones and other recording equipment during the performances.
In the event that the limited seating provided by the Festival does not suffice, the use of folding garden chairs or camping stools is permitted.
Some venues have toilets at them, whilst others have toilets at a local business near to the venue. These will be explained prior to the performance
All our shows should be accessible via wheelchair though we will require you to email us in advance explaining your needs, this is so we can make sure everything is in place for your arrival