Chichester Festival Theatre Announce 2015 Season

After the resounding success of 2014’s summer season and with the fully refurbished Festival Theatre now truly broken in Chichester Festival Theatre have this morning announced their full 2015 season and it’s packed with exciting stuff! We already know Michael Ball will be appearing in ‘Mack & Mabel’, but how about Samuel West performing Chekhov in adaptations by David Hare? Perhaps Michael Attenborough directing David Haig in ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’ will wet your whistle? If not there are plenty more exciting announcements so read on for full details!

Festival 2015 marks the first full season at Chichester following the highly successful major refurbishment completed last summer. One year on, the Festival Theatre will showcase its improved facilities with productions that use the scope of the building to its fullest potential.

At the heart of this season will be major productions of Anton Chekhov’s early plays, offering the first ever chance to see Platonov, Ivanovand The Seagull presented in repertoire with a 22-strong ensemble of distinguished actors. The Young Chekhov plays can be seen individually or as a trilogy, either over different days or on one occasion as an intense theatrical experience. This season within a season is anchored by a trio of talent – Chekhov himself, playwright David Hare, who has written all three adaptations and director Jonathan Kent, returning to Chichester following his triumphant production of Gypsy in Festival 2014. The ensemble cast features Anna Chancellor, James McArdle and Samuel West.

Two major musicals feature in the Festival 2015 season. Following his Olivier Award-winning performance in Sweeney Todd, Michael Ball returns to Chichester in Mack & Mabel. This celebrated homage to silent movies will be directed by Jonathan Church, with choreography by Stephen Mear, while A Damsel in Distress offers a glorious depiction of English eccentricity, directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford.

A new production of Educating Rita by Willy Russell features Lenny Henry making his Chichester debut as the world-weary lecturer Frank, alongside Lashana Lynch as Rita, directed by Talawa Artistic Director Michael Buffong.

The season opens with the transformation of the Festival Theatre stage into a river, complete with life-size boat, for its production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Way Upstream. This nautical comedy features Sarah Parish making her Chichester debut.

The Minerva Theatre provides the intimate setting for three further plays. Continuing Chichester’s tradition of staging Jean Anouilh’s plays, there will be a new production of The Rehearsal, a razor-sharp comedy of manners directed by Jeremy Sams, who has also written the translation. Frank McGuinness’s award-winning portrayal of three hostages Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, is directed by Michael Attenborough and features David Haig in the cast. For Services Rendered by W. Somerset Maugham, directed by Howard Davies, depicts the far-reaching consequences of World War One for one ordinary English family.

Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild will be staged by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre in a promenade production at Cass Sculpture Foundation. This bold and inventive production directed by Dale Rooks features life-size puppetry by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, whose previous work includes War Horse and The Elephantom for the National Theatre.

As Chichester unveils its new season, the Theatre continues to consolidate its reputation nationally and internationally with Festival 2014 productions of Taken at Midnight, Stevie and Gypsy in London during 2015, while a UK tour of Barnum continues and Singin’ in the Rain is staged in New Zealand and South Africa.

Artistic Director Jonathan Church said: “It is wonderful to present our first full season since the reopening of the Festival Theatre last year, and the tenth since Alan and I began work at Chichester. It has been gratifying to receive such a positive response to the refurbished building, and the work staged there and in the Minerva Theatre during 2014. We are looking forward to consolidating last year’s achievements with this year’s season. It features a particularly impressive calibre of directors, and embraces both the old and the new, ranging from the early work of one of the world’s most acclaimed and enduring playwrights, to an exciting world premiere by our Youth Theatre.”

Executive Director Alan Finch said: “Festival 2014 has been our most successful season yet with over £5.5million in box office sales. We achieved an average of 95% capacity for Festival 2014, attracting over 40% new bookers to the theatre. Having succeeded in reopening the Festival Theatre on time and on target, our aim this year is to make the most of all the opportunities we’ll have to use our renewed building as creatively as possible. We are looking forward to the challenge of staging productions that are bigger and bolder, and that will enhance the audience experience.”

The adaptor of the three Chekhov plays, David Hare, said: “Chekhov essentially created contemporary theatre, and in these three plays you see the arrival of his genius. Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull are all the work of a young man – full of a vigour, a wildness and a romanticism which you rarely find in his later work. For me, working on these early plays has been a mission. They uncover a passionate side of Chekhov which so few audiences know, and which he later hid behind craftier strategies of disguise.”

Actor Lenny Henry said: “When I began studying for an Open University degree, it was a pivotal period that opened my mind to the delights of Shakespeare and so much more. I’d already become established as a successful comedian, but education held the key to a world that led to a new chapter in my career. It means a great deal to me personally and professionally to be in Willy Russell’s classic play about the ways in which education can change your life. I hope that it’ll inspire audiences to think about the pathways and obstacles to success that education offers the young – and not so young! – today.”


WAY UPSTREAM by Alan Ayckbourn
Director: Nadia Fall
23 April – 16 May, Festival Theatre

Four old friends, one cruising boat, two weeks off work, and the perfect setting of the beautiful River Orb. What could possibly go wrong? This hilarious expose of the murky depths that lurk beneath the surfaces of friendship, love, desire and power is vintage Ayckbourn.
Nadia Fall makes her directorial debut at Chichester having recently directed Dara and Home for the National Theatre, and Hobson’s Choice at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Sarah Parish also makes her Chichester debut as June. Her television credits include W1A, Mistresses and Cutting It.

THE REHEARSAL by Jean Anouilh
Translated by Jeremy Sams
Director: Jeremy Sams
8 May – 6 June, Minerva Theatre

The Count, better known as Tiger, is planning another of his spectacular parties, including an evening of amateur dramatics. But as soon as rehearsals begin, it’s clear that his play will unleash just as much passion, shock and intrigue off stage as it will on. This clever comedy exposes the truths that people conceal and the secret roles that they really want to play.

Jeremy Sams directs the production, having also provided the celebrated translation. His directing credits include The Sound of Music in the West End, Noises Off at the National Theatre and The Water Babies at Chichester.

A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS                            
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson
Based on the novel by P.G.Wodehouse 
and the play by P.G.Wodehouse and Ian Hay
Director: Rob Ashford
30 May – 27 June, Festival Theatre

Bring together a world-weary American composer, a beautiful and irrepressible English socialite, a fierce aunt, and lots of other delightfully eccentric characters and the stage is set for a charming musical, based on a novel by P.G.Wodehouse with songs by George and Ira Gershwin.
This new stage musical is directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford whose credits include Shrek The Musical, Cat on a Hot Tin Roofwith Scarlett Johansson, and Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston.

EDUCATING RITA by Willy Russell
Director: Michael Buffong
18 June – 25 July, Minerva Theatre

English lecturer Frank has never met anyone like plain-speaking Rita – until the Open University brings them together. Willy Russell’s touching and enduring comedy has delighted audiences around the world, and celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
Actor, broadcaster and comedian Lenny Henry makes his Chichester debut as Frank. His theatre credits include The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre and award-winning performances in West End productions of Fences and Othello.
Also making her Chichester debut is Lashana Lynch whose recent credits include Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet at The Shed (National Theatre), BBC 1’s Death in Paradise and BBC 3’s Crims.
The production is directed by Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company, whose recent credits include All My Sonsand Moon on a Rainbow Shawl.

Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman      Book by Michael Stewart
Book revised by Francine Pascal
Director: Jonathan Church
13 July – 5 September, Festival Theatre

This musical comedy is a poignant love story and a riveting tribute to the silent movie era, based on the true romance between Hollywood legends Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand. It received eight Tony Award nominations when it opened on Broadway in 1974.
Michael Ball plays Mack Sennett. His other recent credits include his Olivier Award-winning performance in Chichester’s production ofSweeney Todd (also West End), the BBC drama That Day We Sang and the West End production of Hairspray.
Director Jonathan Church’s most recent musical hit is the award-winning Singin’ in the Rain, which continues its international tour in 2015. His other credits include Festival 2014’s Taken at Midnight (currently running in the West End) and Amadeus, as well as The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Choreography is by Stephen Mear, whose credits include Festival 2014’s Amadeus and Gypsy.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED by W. Somerset Maugham
Director: Howard Davies
31 July – 5 September, Minerva Theatre

Written in 1932, this engrossing drama confronts the damaging consequences of war, loss and trauma for one ordinary English family.
Director Howard Davies’s many acclaimed productions for the RSC, the National Theatre, in the West End and on Broadway have garnered him many awards. In 2009 he made his Chichester debut with The House of Special Purpose.

by Michael Morpurgo
in a new adaptation by Samuel Adamson
Director: Dale Rooks
2 – 16 August, Cass Sculpture Foundation

A touching and thrilling story of the devastating Boxing Day tsunami, and a young boy’s remarkable jungle adventures afterwards.
The promenade production by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre will be staged in the evocative landscape of Cass Sculpture Foundation, against the spectacular backdrop of monumental sculptures and dramatic settings.
This tale of healing and the power of nature is based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, in a new adaptation by Samuel Adamson, directed by Dale Rooks, with puppetry by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié.

Director: Michael Attenborough
10 September – 10 October, Minerva Theatre

Based on the experiences of those taken hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s, this drama features an American doctor, an Irish journalist and an English academic – three men with little in common who somehow forge bonds that testify to the power of the human spirit.
Director Michael Attenborough makes his Chichester debut. Whilst Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, his award-winning productions included Measure for Measure and The Knot of the Heart.
David Haig returns to Chichester following his appearance in Festival 2014’s highly acclaimed Pressure, which he also wrote.

in versions by David Hare
Director: Jonathan Kent
28 September – 14 November, Festival Theatre

Three plays written when Anton Chekhov was young offer a new perspective on this undisputed master of modern drama. With sunbursts of youthful anger and romanticism, they reveal a very different playwright from the one known through his mature, more familiar work.
Acclaimed playwright David Hare has written these versions. His numerous credits include Behind The Beautiful Forevers for the National Theatre, The Absence of War which tours the UK in 2015, and South Downs at Chichester (also West End).
Anna Chancellor, last at Chichester in Private Lives and South Downs/The Browning Version (also West End), is confirmed to play Arkadina in The Seagull, with her other role to be announced.
James McArdle, whose credits include The James Plays at the Edinburgh Festival and National Theatre, plays the title role in Platonovand Lvov in Ivanov.
Samuel West, last seen at Chichester in Enron and Doctor Faustus, plays the title role in Ivanov and Trigorin in The Seagull.
Director Jonathan Kent returns to Chichester following his acclaimed Festival 2014 production of Gypsy which transfers to London in 2015.


Throughout the season, there will also be a host of tours, talks and activities providing extra insight to all Festival 2015 productions, including events for children, young people and adults. Highlights include Dame Joan Plowright in conversation with Richard Digby Day, Michael Morpurgo reading from and talking about his latest novel, Listen to the Moon and a Literary Lunch with David Hare.

There will also be a variety of learning and participation events to enjoy. Lenny Henry and a panel of young people will discuss the education choices and employment pathways available to young people at Youth Get In!. As the Youth Theatre celebrates its 30thanniversary, their members will be encouraged to take part in the workings of the Theatre in Open All Doors. Led by CFT’s Learning, Education and Participation team, the Living with Dementia Festival will bring people living with this condition and their carers closer to the Theatre. Puppets Extraordinaire is a fun workshop for families and anyone aged five and upwards, with the chance to work with Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié, the team behind War Horse. For further details, visit

Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens:
Monday 2 March (online and booking forms only)
Monday 9 March (phone and in person).

Public booking opens:
Wednesday 11 March (online only)
Monday 16 March (phone and in person).

Box Office 01243 781312

16 – 25s Ticket Scheme
An allocation of tickets priced at just £8.50 are available for 16 to 25 year olds for all performances in both the Festival and Minerva Theatres. These will be available one month before each production opens.

Festival 2015 sponsors
Way Upstream is sponsored by Genesis and Zero C
The Rehearsal is sponsored by Conciair
A Damsel in Distress is sponsored by Covers, Jackson-Stops & Staff, Oldham Seals Group and Reynolds Fine Furniture
Educating Rita is sponsored by ITD Consultants
Mack & Mabel is sponsored by Conquest Fine Bespoke Furniture, Harwoods Group, Henry Adams and Seaward Properties
For Services Rendered is sponsored by SieMatic
Running Wild is sponsored by Kenwood, Mercer, and University of Chichester
Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me is sponsored by Bishops Printers
Platonov and Ivanov are sponsored by Wiley, and The Seagull is sponsored by De’Longhi



Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about theatre, but also enjoys covering sport, especially rugby.

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