Hugh Bonneville, Sheila Hancock, Dervla Kirwan, Josie Lawrence, James Nesbitt and John Simm will be among the stars in Chichester this summer.
Clare Burt, Nancy Carroll, Hadley Fraser, Gerald Kyd, Amara Okereke and Rachael Stirling will join them in a Chichester Festival Theatre summer season announced today – a season which boasts powerful world premieres, two musicals, Shakespeare, revivals of 20th and 21st century classics and brand-new family shows
Major revivals of classic and contemporary dramas:
Hugh Bonneville in Shadowlands by William Nicholson, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh
Kate Hewitt directs Rachael Stirling in David Hare’s Plenty
Nancy Carroll plays Hester Collyer in Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Paul Foster
Paul Miller directs John Simm and Dervla Kirwin in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
An immersive staging of Roy Williams’s Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads directed by Nicole Charles
Four new plays:
8 Hotels by Nicholas Wright, directed by Richard Eyre
Hedda Tesman by Cordelia Lynn, after Henrik Ibsen, directed by Holly Race Roughan in a co-production with Headlong and The Lowry
Anna Ledwich, CFT’s new writer in residence, adapts Michael Morpurgo’s The Butterfly Lion, directed by Dale Rooks
Anna Ledwich also writes Crossing Lines, a promenade production for CFYT
Two musicals, one modern, one classic:
Tim Firth’s This Is My Family, with James Nesbitt, Sheila Hancock and Clare Burt, directed by Daniel Evans
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! with Josie Lawrence and Amara Okereke, directed by Jeremy Sams
Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director Daniel Evans today unveils his third Festival season at the venue, but he insists it doesn’t get any easier.
“Even this morning when I was telling all the staff, I still had butterflies in my stomach!”
But butterflies of an increasingly-positive kind. Daniel is delighted with the season which has come together: “I feel very proud of it and totally stand by it.
“But yes, it is great to have the first two seasons under my belt. It means you can listen to audiences and talk to audiences, talk to people that are very close to us and talk to people that perhaps only come once every season. It means we can also look at data. Part of what we do in the planning is anecdotal, but part also is absolutely scientific. With the costs involved, we have to be able to make some predictions on what might sell and where we can budget for things that might challenge our audiences. It is a whole teamwork thing.
“We have got a big theatre. Our main space is 1,300 seats, and the space itself demands certain kinds of plays or musicals. It requires pieces with big ideas and big emotional lives. Jonathan Church, my predecessor here (as artistic director) used to talk about (founding CFT artistic director) Laurence Olivier saying it used to be ‘three for them and one for me’ when it came to productions, and actually I quite like that quote. There is a little bit of that in what we are doing.”
So which production Daniel’s “one for me” this season?
Daniel offers Hedda Tesman by Cordelia Lynn. a piece after Henrik Ibsen, directed by Holly Race Roughan (August 30– September 28, Minerva Theatre).
“It is a reimagined version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, and we are seeing Hedda reimagined in her 60s with the end of her life coming at her like a runaway train...
“But perhaps the most obvious thing is the Spiegeltent we will be having.”
Into this Daniel is putting Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads by Roy Williams, directed by Nicole Charles, October 5-November 2. Chichester’s temporary third venue will take its audiences into the heart of a London pub for a crucial England v Germany football game.
“It is a piece that really demand up-close, personal, immersive theatre, and the audience will be sitting at bar stools. It will have a capacity of about 110, about a third the size of the Minerva.”
And if the audience enjoy the experience, who knows, the Spiegeltent might be back in the future...
As for the main house, the summer season gets underway with Shadowlands by William Nicholson, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, April 26-May 25, starring Hugh Bonneville.
Hugh, who lives in the Chichester area, returns to the CFT following his acclaimed performance in An Enemy of the People (2016). His many television and film appearances include Downton Abbey, W1A and Paddington.
The piece famously tells of the love between celebrated writer C S Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and New York poet Joy Gresham – a relationship which will take them to the extremities of pain and joy. Director Rachel Kavanaugh also returns to Chichester where her many productions include Half A Sixpence (2016) and The Winslow Boy (2017).
“I have been talking to Hugh for a while about coming back and doing something for us,” Daniel says. “There were a few projects on the table, and this was the one that we both felt ticked all the boxes, partly because it is so moving and partly because it is about one of our most celebrated writers – and the story of this completely-unexpected love that happens between him and this quite brash American woman with a young son, a love affair that is quite short lived because tragedy hits them. It will require Hugh to connect with his emotional life which we all know he has. It is very profound, a wonderful bringing together of joy and suffering.”
Next up on the main-house stage is Plenty by David Hare, directed by Kate Hewitt, June 7-29. Susan Traherne is a former secret agent. Her heroic work with the Special Operations Executive in Nazi-occupied France brought her extremes of danger, as well as adventures and romance. 20 years on she is living a very different existence in London, as the wealthy wife of a diplomat. Her strained marriage and altered circumstances have threatened her identity and trapped her in a destructive nostalgia for her wartime idealism.
“When it opened in the late 70s at the National, it caused quite a stir because of its depiction of a strong female character who is struggling to deal with establishment England, post-World War Two. And I think it is relevant at a time when we are examining now what Englishness and what Britishness means.”
Rachael Stirling plays the lead: “It requires someone with great intellectual capacity but also huge emotional range.”
Next up in the main house, Daniel promises, huge escapism – again something he feels will hit the spot given all the uncertainties we are living through. Oklahoma! music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, directed by Jeremy Sams, runs from July 15-Sept 7, Festival Theatre.
The main house season concludes with Macbeth by William Shakespeare, September 21-October 26, starring John Simm and Dervla Kirwan.
Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens: February 23 (online and booking forms only) ; February 27 (phone and in person)
Booking for groups and schools opens: February 28
General booking opens: March 2 (online only); March 5 (phone and in person)
cft.org.uk Box Office 01243 781312 Tickets from £10
Prologue: £5 tickets for 16 – 25s. More than 10,000 £5 tickets are available for 16 to 25 year-olds for all productions; sign up for free at cft.org.uk/prologue.