Chichester Festival Theatre public booking set to open

With around 600 people as the maximum safe attendance, Chichester Festival Theatre has cut its cloth accordingly with a special autumn season for our troubled times.
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias KeyDaniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key

As CFT artistic director Daniel Evans says, we won’t be seeing cast sizes on a South Pacific scale; instead it’s a varied and enticing line-up of drama, music, comedy and cabaret: “There is work still to do, but it is a mixture of our own produced work alongside lots of visitors, and really the best thing is just simply to be able to offer something to the audiences.

“Financially it is still challenging. We have a large stage and by the time you have put a set on there and paid for actors and the creative team, you really have to start thinking about balancing the books. But that’s OK. We can make the adjustment with the comedians and the cabaret shows that traditionally have a leaner expenditure.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Daniel is particularly pleased to be able to start the season with Crave by Sarah Kane, directed by Tinuke Craig (Festival Theatre, Oct 29-Nov 7; live stream, Oct 31-Nov 7) – a play, with a cast of just four, which he believes perfect for now.

Originally due to play in the Spiegeltent this autumn, it is a play which has gained added relevance with all that has happened this year.

In a damaged world, four characters search for the light. Angry, funny, defiant, kind and cruel, Crave is a deeply personal meditation on the meaning of love, he says: “Its resonance will be doubly powerful as we begin to reconnect our lives after the loneliness and seclusion inflicted by the global pandemic.”

In a first for Chichester, it will be simultaneously live-streamed to global digital audiences on a pay-per-view basis: “There will be different levels of pricing.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The fascination will be seeing where the viewers are: “When we streamed Flowers For Mrs Harris and The Midnight Gang, we knew that people were watching worldwide.”

It is also a season designed to cater for a wide range of tastes. As Daniel says, if you want comedy, you’ve got Rich Hall, Suzi Ruffell, Andrew Ryan, Russell Kane, Rosie Jones and Charlie Baker; if you want naughty, you’ve got Olivier Award-winning Le Gateau Chocolat and Queen of the Alternative Drag scene Jonny Woo; if you want classical, you’ve got a portrait of Rachmaninov with Henry Goodman and Lucy Parham.

Goodman’s return is poignant. He was due to open this summer’s cancelled CFT season in Brecht’s Galileo: “He was there for our first day of rehearsals. In fact, it was our only day of rehearsals! It is lovely that he is coming back now.

“But basically, we were wanting to give people as much choice as possible, and on the whole the shows will be done without an interval.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We had spoken to many of our artists and everybody was saying ‘Yes! Go ahead!’ We were just waiting for the official go-ahead, and once we had that the team at the theatre were working like Trojans to get the whole thing buckled down. It was wonderful.”

And importantly, the CFT go into it all knowing that the appetite is there.

The venue’s Bank Holiday Monday open-air concert very quickly sold out; and at a test event in the main-house to an invited audience, a questionnaire afterwards confirmed 99 per cent of those attending would feel safe to come back.

“If the event we had indoors is anything to go by, the audience wouldn’t stop applauding. I ended up applauding them because we were so grateful to them for coming back. It will be great. When the first audience turns up for the Sarah Kane, it will be for a group of actors indoors meeting their audience for the first time since February.”

General booking opens: Friday, October 2 from 9am online, by phone from 12 noon; 01243 781312.