The announcement of a new season at Chichester Festival Theatre is always greeted with excitement here, like spring come early! Of course the 2017 season is all the more exciting as it marks Daniel Evans‘ debut as Artistic Director.
Festival 2017 marks the beginning of a new era at Chichester Festival Theatre under the leadership of Artistic Director Daniel Evans and Executive Director Rachel Tackley.
Their first season, which stretches from April to November, sees directors Lisa Blair, Michael Longhurst and Blanche McIntyre making their Chichester debuts, while welcoming back Richard Eyre, Jeremy Herrin, Jonathan Kent, Jonathan Munby and Dale Rooks. Among the leading actors announced so far are Sharon D. Clarke, Omid Djalili, Marcia Gay Harden, Ian McKellen, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Brian J. Smith and Richard Wilson.
Daniel Evans and Rachel Tackley said: ‘We are thrilled to introduce our first season at the helm of Chichester Festival Theatre. It’s been a joy to put together a variety of work created by some of the most exciting artists in the country.
‘We’re delighted to welcome those who are new to Chichester, such as Marcia Gay Harden, Sharon D. Clarke, Omid Djalili and Edna O’Brien, and the many who are making return visits – among them Ian McKellen, Richard Wilson, Jonathan Kent and Richard Eyre.
‘It’s a particular pleasure that some of the UK’s most talented young designers and creative artists will be working on this year’s productions, and we’re also offering new opportunities for six assistant directors at the start of their careers.
‘There will be over 10,000 tickets available at £10 in the Festival Theatre, and the price of tickets for 16 to 25 year olds has been reduced to £5. For the first time there will be a Relaxed Performance of our summer musical, Fiddler on the Roof; there’ll be free entertainment for everyone in Oaklands Park and a Fun Palace weekend in October. We hope that everyone will find something to enjoy.’
FESTIVAL 2017 PRODUCTIONS – APRIL TO NOVEMBER 2017
FORTY YEARS ON by Alan Bennett
Directed by Daniel Evans
21 April – 20 May, Festival Theatre
A public school on the South Downs. The Headmaster is retiring and today is his last day. His final task is to appear in the school play. The problem is: he’s yet to read the script. It soon becomes clear that ‘Speak for England, Arthur’ is not quite the celebration of school tradition the headmaster might have expected.
A glorious comedy, Alan Bennett’s first play is a hilarious and at times unnerving enquiry into Englishness, nostalgia and identity. Written at a time of tumultuous social change it explores, with great satirical verve, the impact of the past on the present.
Alan Bennett is one of our most cherished writers, internationally famous for classics such as Talking Heads,The Madness of George III, The History Boys and The Lady in the Van.
Daniel Evans, Chichester’s new Artistic Director, opens Festival 2017 directing a cast which will include over 50 local young people. For the last seven years he was Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres, which was named Regional Theatre of the Year for the third time in The Stage 2017 Awards.
The company will be led by Richard Wilson as the Headmaster. Having directed FRACKED! for Festival 2016, the much-loved star of TV’s One Foot in the Grave appears as an actor at Chichester for the first time; his recent stage work includes Krapp’s Last Tape (Sheffield Theatres).
Forty Years On will be designed by Lez Brotherston, with musical direction and arrangements by Tom Brady, lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Emma Laxton, video by Nina Dunn and movement by Naomi Said.
CAROLINE, OR CHANGE
Book and lyrics by Tony Kushner
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Michael Longhurst
6 May – 3 June, Minerva Theatre
Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline Thibodeaux is an African American maid earning thirty dollars a week working for the Jewish Gellman family. She is thirty-nine, a single parent and the mother of four children.
Eight-year-old Noah Gellman visits Caroline in the basement as she works, washing and ironing. But when the boy begins leaving loose change in his laundry, his stepmother Rose devises a deterrent with revealing and far-reaching consequences.
This Olivier Award-winning musical mixes blues, soul, Motown, classical music and Jewish folk songs to create a beautiful, uplifting and deeply moving portrait of America at a time of momentous social upheaval spurred by the civil rights movement. The Broadway production was re-staged at the National Theatre in 2006; this will be the first new UK production.
Author of the ground-breaking Angels in America (which is revived at the National Theatre this spring), Tony Kushner’s book and lyrics were partly inspired by his own boyhood. The score is by Jeanine Tesori, whose musical Fun Home won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Original Score.
Michael Longhurst’s acclaimed 2016 revival of Amadeus at the National Theatre will return there next year. His previous productions include Nick Payne’s plays Constellations (London and New York) and If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet (Broadway), and Simon Stephens’ Carmen Disruption (Almeida).
Sharon D. Clarke makes her Chichester debut in the title role. Equally renowned as a singer and actor, her Olivier Award-winning stage and screen work encompasses Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Amen Corner at the National Theatre, Ghost the Musical and We Will Rock You in the West End, and Holby City on TV.
Caroline, Or Change will be designed by Fly Davis, with choreography by Ann Yee, musical direction by Nigel Lilley, lighting by Jack Knowles and sound by Paul Arditti.
SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Jonathan Kent
2 – 24 June, Festival Theatre
1956, a hotel on the Gulf of Mexico. Alexandra del Lago, a fading Hollywood legend, has fled the ridicule that greeted the premiere of her come-back movie. Desperate for anonymity and forgetfulness, she is holed up in a small seaside town on the Gulf of Mexico.
With her is Chance Wayne – a young hustler, trying to lend his wasted, disreputable life some meaning and now returning home to reclaim his childhood love from her ruthless father, the corrupt politician ‘Boss’ Finley.
In perhaps his most searing and personal of plays, Tennessee Williams examines failed ambition, lost youth and love, and the corruption and bigotry that lurks beneath the American Dream. As the present-day United States faces uncertainty and momentous change, Sweet Bird of Youth is a portrayal of the degradation of American values and the corrosive lure of celebrity.
Director Jonathan Kent returns to Chichester following his acclaimed productions of the Young Chekhov Trilogy, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd and Private Lives, all of which transferred to London.
Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Marcia Gay Harden makes her UK theatre debut as Alexandra. Her films include Miller’s Crossing, Pollock, Mystic River and the Fifty Shades trilogy, while television includes Law and Order: SVU and Code Black. She made an acclaimed Broadway debut in Angels in America and won a Tony Award for God of Carnage.
Brian J. Smith, who plays Chance, is currently reprising his Tony-nominated Broadway role as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in the West End. His screen work includes Hate Crime, Stargate Universe and Netflix’s Sense8.
The production will be designed by Anthony Ward, with lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Debbie Wiseman, sound by Paul Groothuis and video by Andrzej Goulding.
THE COUNTRY GIRLS by Edna O’Brien
Directed by Lisa Blair
9 June – 8 July, Minerva Theatre
The 1950s. Rural Ireland. Kate and Baba are best friends who long to escape their traditional families and convent school. When they finally rebel and make a break for it, their lives burst open.
As they forge new identities in Dublin, the childhood friends must discover if it is possible to grow up without growing apart.
Edna O’Brien’s novel The Country Girls was controversially banned in Ireland on publication in 1960. From her much-loved book, she has created a new free-flowing play which is a frank, lyrical and wrenching exploration of young women, the loss of innocence and the tenacity of love and hope.
Edna O’Brien’s novels also include The Lonely Girl, Girls in Their Married Bliss and The Little Red Chairs; non-fiction includes her memoir Country Girl.
Director Lisa Blair makes her debut at Chichester; her recent productions include Mike Bartlett’s Contractions at Sheffield Crucible and Faust X2 at the Watermill, Newbury.
The Country Girls will be designed by Richard Kent, with lighting by Lizzie Powell, music by Isobel Waller-Bridge and sound by Christopher Shutt.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Based on the Sholem Aleichem Stories, By Special Permission of Arnold Perl
Book by Joseph Stein Music by Jerry Bock Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Produced on the New York Stage by Harold Prince
Original New York Stage Production Directed by and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins
Directed by Daniel Evans
10 July – 26 August, Festival Theatre
A small village in Imperial Russia. Tevye, a poor dairyman, and his wife, Golde, are blessed with five witty and beautiful daughters. The matchmaker Yente, who believes any husband is better than no husband, is busy making sensible marriage plans for them all.
But Tevye’s bold daughters have their own ideas about who to marry. And as change and new ideas roll in from the big cities, dissolving the old ways of life, the sisters are not alone in their lust for something new.
This celebrated and much loved musical is packed with show-stopping songs including the hits If I Were A Rich Man, Tradition and Matchmaker. The original record-breaking Broadway production won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical. This brand new staging is directed by Daniel Evans, whose hit productions at Sheffield Theatres included Show Boat, My Fair Lady and Flowers for Mrs Harris. His outstanding creative team includes designer Lez Brotherston (Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Sister Act) and choreographer Alistair David (Show Boat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).
Omid Djalili makes his Chichester debut playing Tevye. A multi award-winning comedian and actor, his stage credits include Oliver! in the West End and, on film, The Infidel, Shaun the Sheep and Casanova.
Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Golde; her stage credits include Boeing-Boeing and Stepping Out in the West End, while her extensive TV work includes New Tricks, EastEnders and Friday Night Dinner.
The musical supervisor and orchestrator will be David White, the co-orchestrator will be Andy Massey and the musical director, Tom Brady; with lighting by David Hersey and sound by Carolyn Downing.
There will be a Relaxed Performance of Fiddler on the Roof on 26 July at 2.30pm, especially suitable for individuals, groups and families with children on the autistic spectrum, sensory and communication disorders or anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed theatre environment.
THE HOUSE THEY GREW UP IN A new play by Deborah Bruce
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
A co-production with Headlong
14 July – 5 August, Minerva Theatre
The present day. A residential street in South East London. The house where reclusive siblings Peppy and Daniel were born is now stuffed full of everything they have ever owned. This hoard, their eccentric appearance and rampant garden hedge, set them conspicuously apart from others on their road.
When young Ben visits from next door he is simply looking for friendship; but what happens next challenges everyone’s idea of neighbourliness.
The House They Grew Up In is a tender, dark and funny look at a co-dependent relationship between a brother and a sister, and how they cope when the world bursts in on them. It explores how, in an age of anxiety, we live alongside those different to us.
Deborah Bruce’s first play was Godchild (Hampstead 2013); her second, The Distance, premiered at the Orange Tree Theatre and was revived there and in Sheffield in 2015 and nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Artistic Director of Headlong Jeremy Herrin returns to Chichester where his recent work includes This House, South Downs and Another Country.
The production will be designed by Max Jones, with lighting by Natasha Chivers.
Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present
Philip Pullman’s GRIMM TALES for Young and Old
Adapted by Philip Wilson
Directed by Dale Rooks
4 – 19 August, Cass Sculpture Foundation
Once upon a time, in a land far away… In a fantastical fairy tale world, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel follow their destinies alongside other, stranger folk: mythical creatures, proud princesses, wicked witches and bold princes.
This bewitching and eerie patchwork of tales is woven by an ensemble of quirky storytellers and a troupe of musicians. Follow them through the enchanted pathways and darker twists and turns of the beautifully landscaped Cass Sculpture Foundation – if you dare….
Author of His Dark Materials and The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Philip Pullman’s retelling of the original stories by the Brothers Grimm appeals to adults as much as children, preserving their macabre simplicity and legendary fascination.
Directed by Dale Rooks, the renowned Chichester Festival Youth Theatre return to Cass Sculpture Foundation where they staged Running Wild in 2015, winning the UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People.
The audience will follow the production on foot through a variety of locations, including some steep and uneven ground. Suitable for ages 8+.
Grimm Tales will be designed by Ryan Dawson Laight, with music by Eamonn O’Dwyer.
THE STEPMOTHER by Githa Sowerby
Directed by Richard Eyre
11 August – 9 September, Minerva Theatre
A comfortable house in Surrey. When the orphaned Lois Relph accepts a marriage proposal from an older man, Eustace Gaydon, she believes she’s been rescued from an uncertain future. Establishing a successful business as a dress designer, Lois leaves her fortune in her husband’s hands.
But when one of her devoted step-daughters needs her help, Lois is forced to address what drew Eustace to her in the first place – and, at last, to face the dark truth at the heart of her marriage.
This gripping drama is a searing look at manipulation, money and matrimony. What price a woman’s autonomy within a man’s world?
Playwright Githa Sowerby’s most famous play, Rutherford and Son, is acknowledged as one of the most influential plays of the 20th century.
Richard Eyre returns to Chichester to direct this rediscovered gem; formerly Director of the National Theatre, his work at Chichester includes The Pajama Game and The Last Cigarette, while recent productions also include his award-winning revival of Ghosts (Almeida, West End & New York).
The production will be designed by Tim Hatley, with lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by John Leonard.
KING LEAR by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jonathan Munby
22 September – 28 October, Minerva Theatre
Two ageing fathers – one a King, one his courtier – reject the children who truly love them. Their blindness unleashes a tornado of pitiless ambition and treachery – and their worlds crumble.
Tender, violent, moving and shocking, King Lear is considered by many to be the greatest tragedy ever written. This will be an explosive, charged and contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s epic masterpiece in the intimate setting of the Minerva Theatre.
Jonathan Munby directs, following his acclaimed production of First Light for Festival 2016.
His work for Shakespeare’s Globe includes All the Angels, The Merchant of Venice and Antony and Cleopatra; his recent work for the RSC includes Wendy & Peter Pan.
The ensemble of actors includes Ian McKellen in the title role, who last appeared at Chichester in The Syndicate in 2011. His recent stage work includes No Man’s Land in the West End and on Broadway.
King Lear will be designed by Paul Wills, with lighting by Oliver Fenwick, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, and movement by Lucy Cullingford
THE NORMAN CONQUESTS A trilogy of plays by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Blanche McIntyre
18 September – 28 October, Festival Theatre
An English country house. A summer weekend. A family gathering.
Norman would like to seduce Annie, though he’s married to her sister, Ruth. He’s also got his eye on Sarah, though she’s married to Reg – who is Annie and Ruth’s brother. Tom, from next door, isn’t married to anyone: though he too nurses secret hopes beneath his stoical surface.
With pungent wit and sparkling ingenuity, Alan Ayckbourn fashions the thwarted desires and bittersweet absurdity of family life into a comic masterpiece.
This classic trio of interconnecting plays, seen from hilariously differing perspectives, is performed by one ensemble of actors. Each play can be enjoyed as a single performance or seen as one event in any sequence, either over different days or on trilogy days.
Saturday. 6pm. The dining room. Where no-one is looking forward to Annie’s limp salad, or her mother’s lethal home-made dandelion, parsnip or carrot wine.
Saturday. 6.30pm. The sitting room. With a wind-up gramophone, a pouffe, magazines, and a very, very inviting fur rug.
Round and Round the Garden
Saturday. 5.30pm. The garden. It’s not the only thing that’s looking wild and very, very tangled.
Alan Ayckbourn is Britain’s most prolific and popular contemporary playwright with over eighty plays to his name. Recent productions at Chichester include Way Upstream, Absurd Person Singular and Surprises.
Blanche McIntyre directs at Chichester for the first time; an Associate Director at Nuffield Theatre, her recent work includes Titus Andronicus and Two Noble Kinsmen (RSC), Anouilh’s Welcome Home Captain Fox! (Donmar Warehouse) and Stoppard’s Arcadia (ETT).
The Norman Conquests will be designed by Simon Higlett with lighting by Johanna Town, music by Olly Fox and sound by George Dennis.
QUIZ A new play by James Graham
Directed by Daniel Evans
3 November – 2 December, Minerva Theatre
- The world premiere of a new play by acclaimed writer James Graham?
- A provocative re-examination of the conviction of Charles Ingram, ‘the coughing Major’, for cheating, following his appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
- A hilarious celebration of the great tradition of the British quiz show?
- A razor-sharp analysis of the 21st century’s dangerous new attitude to truth and lies?
Answer: You decide.
James Graham’s This House transferred to the West End following sell-out runs during Festival 2016 and at the National Theatre. His work for theatre in the UK and US includes The Vote and Privacy for the Donmar Warehouse, Finding Neverland on Broadway, Coalition for Channel 4 and the screenplay X+Y.
Daniel Evans recently directed David Mamet’s American Buffalo in the West End; his productions at Sheffield Theatres included Lucy Prebble’s The Effect and David Hare’s Racing Demon.
Quiz will be designed by Robert Jones, with music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, and video by Tim Reid.
Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
A new adaptation from the original fairy tale
Directed by Dale Rooks
16 – 31 December, Festival Theatre
A cursed prince sits alone in an enchanted castle, destined to remain in monstrous form until he can learn to love and be loved in return. But who could ever love a Beast?
Offered a gift by her father, a kind and beautiful young girl asks only for a rose while her brothers and sisters demand jewels and fashionable clothes. But the fulfilment of Beauty’s simple wish puts her in the Beast’s power. He offers her luxury and riches in return for her hand; but can she bring herself to accept his proposals of marriage?
The award-winning Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present a brand new adaptation of the much loved classic in this year’s Christmas production. Prejudice, jealousy, compassion and love are woven through this magical story, studded with enchanting and deliciously scary characters.
Dale Rooks, whose work with CFYT includes Running Wild, A Christmas Carol and Peter Pan, directs a visually spectacular show featuring newly composed songs and wonderfully inventive designs, suitable for ages 7+.
Set design for Beauty and the Beast will be by Simon Higlett, with costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight, lighting by James Whiteside and sound by Gregory Clarke.
There will be a Relaxed Performance of Beauty and the Beast on 31 December at 11am.
FESTIVAL 2017 EVENTS
Talks, tours, performances and hands-on activities for all ages will offer additional insights into Festival 2017. Highlights include talks with Marcia Gay Harden, Alan Bennett and Edna O’Brien; debates and discussion on subjects including The State of Education and The Trump Effect; Inua Ellams’ An Evening with an Immigrant; a Late Night Cabaret and a Theatre Quiz.
Free musical events inspired by the productions will take place in Oaklands Park, including Music and Food for the Soul and A Fiddler on the Roof. In October, the Festival Theatre will take part in Fun Palaces, the nationwide celebration of arts and culture.
Events for 16 to 25 year olds include a conversation with Daniel Evans. CFT’s Learning,
Education and Participation (LEAP) team lead an insight into careers in theatre with Creative Choices, and events for Living Well with Dementia. Workshops for families include Once Upon A Time and Shakespeare for Families.
Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens:
Saturday 25 February (online and booking forms only)
Wednesday 1 March (phone and in person)
Public booking opens:
Saturday 4 March (online only)
Tuesday 7 March (phone and in person)
(For Grimm Tales at Cass Sculpture Foundation, Friends’ priority booking opens Monday 3 April, public booking opens Thursday 6 April.)
Box Office 01243 781312
Tickets from £10
Prologue: £5 tickets for 16 – 25s
10,000 £5 tickets are available for 16 to 25 year-olds for all productions throughout Festival 2017; sign up for free at cft.org.uk/prologue. Members also have access to a range of exclusive events.