Chichester Festival Theatre unveils its 2021 summer season

Four new productions will follow South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre this summer in the new season unveiled today by artistic director Daniel Evans and by executive director Kathy Bourne.
Chichester Festival Theatre's Kathy Bourne (Executive Director) and Daniel Evans (Artistic Director) Photo Seamus RyanChichester Festival Theatre's Kathy Bourne (Executive Director) and Daniel Evans (Artistic Director) Photo Seamus Ryan
Chichester Festival Theatre's Kathy Bourne (Executive Director) and Daniel Evans (Artistic Director) Photo Seamus Ryan

There will be two world premieres: The Long Song, a new adaptation by Suhayla El-Bushra based on Andrea Levy’s novel, directed by Charlotte Gwinner; and The Flock by Zoe Cooper, directed by Guy Jones.

There will also be revivals of two great modern dramas: Rachel O’Riordan directs Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen Of Leenane; and Home by David Storey, directed by Josh Roche.

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The year will conclude with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s production of Pinocchio by Anna Ledwich which returns for Christmas 2021 having been cut short by lockdown last year.

Daniel said: “We’re delighted to announce four new productions to add to our summer musical, South Pacific.

“The Long Song, Suhayla El-Bushra’s new adaptation of Andrea Levy’s great novel, follows South Pacific into the Festival Theatre, while Zoe Cooper’s new play The Flock joins Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane (in a co-production with the Lyric Hammersmith) and David Storey’s Home in a stimulating line-up in the Minerva Theatre.

“These plays – each with a director new to CFT at the helm – take us from the South Pacific to Jamaica, rural Ireland, the north-east of England and back to the Home Counties. All engage, in varying ways, with the differences that divide us – from racial prejudice to warring families, social mores and conflicting beliefs – and whether tolerance and understanding can bring us together.

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“Announcing the season is a massive watershed. It is a big relief – and it is also a celebration of the fact that we are on the way back to togetherness. Putting a season together is always like a massive 3D jigsaw puzzle which is the great enjoyment of it and sometimes also the great frustration of it. But this year there is that whole other aspect of Covid and making sure that our artists and audiences and staff are safe. That will always come first and foremost.”

Daniel’s best hope is that the CFT will play to full capacity by August. To start with there will be one socially distanced performance a week (at 50 per cent capacity), with the rest of the shows at around 70 per cent capacity. As he says, the government saying you can have full capacity is not the same as 100 per cent audience confidence.

“I think that confidence will take time and we have to manage that.”

Kathy agreed: “While we’re all looking forward to a thoroughly good night out, it is important we welcome audiences back safely. We’re continuing to offer a choice of socially distanced performances in both theatres in July and August. And everyone can book with confidence, knowing that should we have to cancel, they’ll be entitled to a full refund. ‘After a challenging year, we can’t wait to reopen our doors.”

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Priority booking for Friends opens: May 22 (online and booking forms only); May 25 (phone and in person).

General booking: May 29 (online only), June 1 (phone and in person).; 01243 781312.

The 2021 Festival productions July to October will be:

* Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A Michener. Directed by Daniel Evans. July 5-September 4. Cast includes Gina Beck, Julian Ovenden, Joanna Ampil, Keir Charles and Rob Houchen.

*The Flock, a new play by Zoe Cooper, directed by Guy Jones, August 6-28, Minerva Theatre.

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The parishioners of All Hallows Church are putting on a production of Noah’s Ark, one of a cycle of mystery plays performed by all the local parishes. The Bishop is hopeful the project will help paper over the cracks revealed by an unfortunate incident involving an evangelical, a glass of wine and an angry liberal.

Rory, All Hallows’ vicar, wants to keep a low profile, and his partner Simon is happy to provide musical accompaniment but would rather he wasn’t given any lines. The congregation, however, have other plans...

The Flock depicts the bumpy road to inclusion for this community, asking how we can live and worship alongside one another when our differences are so marked.

* The Beauty Queen Of Leenane by Martin McDonagh, directed by Rachel O’Riordan, a co-production with Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, September 3-October 2, Minerva Theatre.

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In the mountains of Connemara, County Galway, Maureen Folan – a plain, lonely woman, tied to her manipulative and ageing mother, Mag – comes alive at her first and possibly last prospect of a loving relationship. But Mag has other ideas; and her interference sets in motion a train of events that leads inexorably towards the play’s breathtaking conclusion.

Rachel O’Riordan directs a major revival of this darkly comic, award-winning play by Martin McDonagh, whose work includes the films Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and In Bruges; and the plays The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Hangmen.

Ingrid Craigie plays Mag. Her many credits include Sweet Bird of Youth (CFT), The Cripple of Inishmaan (West End/Broadway) and TV’s Roadkill. Kwaku Fortune (Line of Duty, Normal People) makes his Chichester debut as Ray.

* The Long Song , a new adaptation by Suhayla El-Bushra, based on the novel by Andrea Levy, directed by Charlotte Gwinner, October 1-23, Festival Theatre.

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Miss July is born into slavery in Jamaica and is brutally parted from both her mother, and her name. But what she retains is resilience, charisma and a subversive, spirited wit. This ebullient and life-affirming play finds humanity, resistance and hope in the darkest of times.

* Home by David Storey, directed by Josh Roche, October 8– November 6, Minerva Theatre.

In a neglected garden, small talk oscillates between the weather, the neighbours, reminiscences of friends and family and anecdotes of past exploits in love and war.

But this quintet of characters, Harry, Jack, Marjorie, Kathleen and Alfred, with their foibles and failings, are not what they seem to be and nor is their home. And overhead, the clouds are gathering.

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* Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, Pinocchio, a new adaptation by Anna Ledwich, music by Tom Brady, from the original novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, directed by Dale Rooks, December 18-January 1, Festival Theatre.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s brand-new version of this classic tale by Anna Ledwich had just 15 live performances in 2020 before it was streamed globally during lockdown. It returns for Christmas 2021, again directed by Dale Rooks.