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The Ultimate Guide to Shakespeare Under the Stars

4 February 2019 by Maxim Boon
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“Twelfth Night”

To quote Shakespeare: “Take heed, ere summer comes.” ‘Tis the season when art goes alfresco, and for Melbourne’s theatregoers, that means enjoying a balmy evening at The Australian Shakespeare Company’s latest Under The Stars productions, “Macbeth,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.” If it’s your first time venturing into the Royal Botanic Gardens for a thespian adventure, we’ve put together these top tips for making the most of the experience, with a little help from the Bard himself.

Get tickets to “Macbeth” at Shakespeare Under the Stars.

Get tickets to “Twelfth Night” at Shakespeare Under the Stars.

Get tickets to “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare Under the Stars. 

Arrive with plenty of time to spare
“Be up early and down late” – “Merry Wives Of Windsor,” Act I, scene 4

Weather permitting, we recommend you aim to arrive an hour or so before the show begins, to ensure you get a choice seating position, enough space for your party to sit together, and time to eat, get comfy and absorb the atmosphere. With a backdrop as beautiful as the stunning Botanic Gardens, we’re certain the wait for curtain-up won’t be too arduous.

Avoid the taller seating near the back.
“Dost thou hunger for mine empty chair?” – “Henry IV” Part II, Act IV, scene 5

When it comes to seating at Shakespeare Under the Stars, bigger isn’t always better. For maximum comfort, steer clear of the taller chairs near the back of the seating zone and stick to your picnic blanket, or if you’re want to really make a night of it, treat yourself to a Gold Class ticket. The VIP package gets you two low rise chairs, plus a blanket – not to mention complementary wine, tea, and coffee, and a souvenir program – so you can be sure of a thoroughly comfortable evening of theatre.


Be sure to sit front and centre.
“Close to a stage be placed to the view.” – “Hamlet,” Act V scene 2

If you’re attending on a general admission ticket, you’ll be spoilt for choice on where to sit, but we recommend you experience the show at close quarters. Sitting nearer to the stage in the centre of the seating zone not only offers excellent sight-lines, it also puts you in the thick of the action. However, if you’re a touch phobic of audience participation, worry not. Shakespeare Under the Stars generally only engages in audience interactions of the sweet and gentle variety.

Wrap-up, dress down, and beware the mozzies.
“Contending with the fretful elements, the winds do blow.” – “King Lear,” Act II, scene 1

It may be summer, but as every Melburnian knows, this is the city of four seasons in a day. Save for truly inclement weather, the show must go on, so dress more for comfort and less to impress. The temperature can drop significantly as the night wears on, so be sure to bring a coat to stave off the shivers, and of course, bring some insect repellent to keep those mosquitoes at bay.

Bring a picnic with you or fill up when you arrive.
“Feast and banquet in the open air.” – “Henry VI Part I,” Act 1, scene 6

If you’re a picnic fan, you’ve come to the right show. Picnicking is thoroughly encouraged at Shakespeare Under the Stars, and as one of the world’s most revered gastronomic destinations, Melbourne has plenty of picnic fare on offer. For those who want to outsource the endeavour altogether, look no further than St Kilda’s Fitzrovia. Specialist in picnic perfection, you’ll find multiple hamper options for the ultimate in gourmet grazing. However, if you’d rather not lug your moveable feast across town, there are now food truck options at the Royal Botanic Gardens making the most of Melbourne’s mobile restaurant boom.