There will be double the amount plays compared to last year’s series when a specially constructed open air theatre in Grosvenor Park returns in Chester this summer.

Produced by arts organisation Chester Performs in partnership with Cheshire West & Chester Council, which has contributed £150,000 towards the event, the programme will have an estimated 58 performances compared to last year’s 29.

Cllr Richard Short, executive member for culture and recreation at the council, said: “Last year the open air theatre outperformed all expectations in terms of audience figures and we are hoping to build on this positive start.

“We are targeting around 7, 500 people during the 7-week season which, if achieved, would mean an estimated £1.5 million to local businesses.”

During the programme’s three-week run last year, 5,765 theatre goers attended plays at the purpose built, ‘picnic’ style theatre.

This year a series of plays will run from 7 July until 21 August, which features Shakespeare’s As You Like It and playwright Glyn MaxwellsMerlin.

Alex Clifton, an internationally renowned theatre director who started his career in Chester, will return as the theatre’s artistic director. He is joined this year by acclaimed director Nikolai Foster.

Casting is to be finalised in March and the company begins rehearsals at the end of May.

Chester Performs said the open air theatre is one of only three in the UK - the other two being at Regent’s Park and Shakespeare Globe – and is expected to be free of public subsidy within the next five years.