Chichester Festival Theatre unveils winter season: big names and huge variety

Chichester Festival Theatre’s winter season promises a “fabulously varied array of some of the best touring productions currently on offer in the UK.”
Drop the Dead Donkey - The Reawakening! heads to Chichester (contributed pic)Drop the Dead Donkey - The Reawakening! heads to Chichester (contributed pic)
Drop the Dead Donkey - The Reawakening! heads to Chichester (contributed pic)

Shows coming direct from the West End include Life of Pi, Noises Off and 2:22 A Ghost Story, while star-studded dramas range from A Voyage Round My Father with Rupert Everett to The Merchant of Venice 1936 with Tracy‑Ann Oberman, plus Jane Asher in Somerset Maugham’s The Circle. The original cast of Drop the Dead Donkey are reuniting on stage, and the Nina Simone-inspired Black is the Color of My Voice arrives following a sell-out tour.

Christmas at CFT this year will be a family affair. Alongside Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s new dramatisation of The Jungle Book for ages 7+, there’s a first musical for ages three to seven in the Minerva, the Unicorn Theatre production of Stiles & Drewe’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff directed by Chichester’s new artistic director Justin Audibert. There’s also a wide range of music, comedy and performance this winter from favourites including Judi Dench, Rob Brydon, Fisherman’s Friends and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

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Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens: Saturday, September 9 (online and by booking form only); Tuesday, September 12 (phone and in person). Public booking opens: Saturday, September 16 (online only), Tuesday, September 19 (phone and in person). Box office 01243 781312; online

Plays and musicals coming up include:

Rupert Everett and Julian Wadham in A Voyage Round My Father, Festival Theatre, November 7-11. Rupert Everett stars in John Mortimer’s celebrated autobiographical play. Growing up in the shadow of a brilliant and eccentric barrister, the son continually yearns for his father’s love and respect. In shining a light on this delicate relationship, A Voyage Round My Father introduces us to a gallery of unforgettable and often hilarious characters. Rupert Everett returns to Chichester following his acclaimed performance as Salieri in Amadeus (Festival 2014). The director is Richard Eyre (4000 Miles).

Life Of Pi, Festival Theatre, November 16-December 2. Winner of five Olivier Awards including Best New Play in the West End, and three Tony Awards on Broadway, Life of Pi comes to Chichester Festival Theatre as part of its first UK tour. Based on Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Life of Pi is the story of an epic journey of endurance and hope.

The Merchant Of Venice 1936, Minerva Theatre, November 21-25. Ambition, power and political unrest explode onto the stage in The Merchant of Venice 1936, direct from the RSC. Starring Tracy-Ann Oberman (Fiddler on the Roof 2017, EastEnders, Doctor Who) as Shylock, Shakespeare’s classic is transported to 1930s Britain in a new production from director Brigid Larmour. Tensions in London’s East End are rising and Shylock, a resilient single mother and hard-working businesswoman, is desperate to protect her daughter’s future.

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Mosquitoes, Minerva Theatre, November 28-December 2. For ages 14+. Alice is a scientist. She lives in Geneva. As the Large Hadron Collider starts up in 2008, she is on the brink of the most exciting work of her life. Jenny is her sister. She lives in Luton. She spends a lot of time Googling. When tragedy throws them together, the collision threatens them all with chaos.

Christmas Concerts, Festival Theatre, December 5-9, The Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and Chichester Cathedral Choir.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Minerva Theatre, December 14-January 7, for ages three to seven. Following a successful run at the Unicorn Theatre last Easter, Stiles and Drewe’s hit musical The Three Billy Goats Gruff arrives in Chichester. Directed by Chichester Festival Theatre’s new artistic director Justin Audibert, it promises a magical, fairy-tale show which is the perfect first musical for young families.

The Jungle Book, Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, Festival Theatre, December 16- 31, music by Ruth Chan, directed by Matt Hassell. With a huge cast of characters from the formidable snake Kaa and laughing jackal Tabaqui to Ikki the gossiping porcupine and Mao the strutting peacock, this beloved tale is a “coming of age story about the desire for freedom that beats in the heart of every child.”

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Liza Goddard, Matthew Kelly and Simon Shepherd in Noises Off, Festival Theatre, January 9-13. Direct from the West End, Michael Frayn’s celebrated play serves up a riotous double bill, a play within a play, directed by Lindsay Posner. Hurtling along at breakneck speed, Noises Off follows the on and off stage antics of a touring theatre company as they stumble their way through the fictional farce Nothing On.

Jane Asher, Clive Francis and Nicholas Le Prevost in The Circle, Festival Theatre, January 30-February 3. Somerset Maugham’s sparky comedy of manners was first staged in 1921 and has remained a firm favourite with audiences ever since. Jane Asher (Alfie, Deep End) plays Lady Kitty, a society beauty who notoriously abandoned her stuffy husband Clive (Clive Francis, The Crown) and eloped with the handsome Lord Porteous (Nicholas Le Prevost, Shakespeare in Love, Testament of Youth).

2:22 A Ghost Story, Festival Theatre, February 6-10. Winner of Best New Play at the WhatsOnStage Awards, this edge-of-your-seat, supernatural thriller that has taken the West End by storm now comes to Chichester. Jenny believes her new home is haunted, but her husband Sam isn’t having any of it. They argue with their first dinner guests, old friend Lauren and new partner Ben. Can the dead really walk again? Belief and scepticism clash…

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, for ages 7+, Festival Theatre, February 14-18 This pop-fuelled, upbeat hit musical, based on the book by Suffragette relative Kate Pankhurst and adapted by Chris Bush comes from one of the producers of SIX. Join inquisitive heroine Jade as she breaks away from her class to take a peek at the not yet open Gallery of Greatness in the local museum. On her journey she meets wonder women Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart and Emmeline Pankhurst to name just a few.

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We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Festival Theatre, February 15-18, for ages 3+. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, based on the picture book by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, returns vividly and noisily in director Sally Cookson’s fun-filled adaptation set to Benji Bower’s lively score. Join our intrepid family of adventurers and their musical dog on a quest to find a bear.

Peak Stuff, Minerva Theatre, February 15-17. One performer and three stories about young people’s relationship with stuff... Alice is done with fast fashion. Ben can’t stop buying trainers. And Charlie just wants to sell out... one organ at a time. Peak Stuff presents three fast-paced, funny, messed-up stories, taking a deep-dive into consumer culture with award-winning theatre company ThickSkin.

Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening! Festival Theatre, February 20-24. 30 years since the launch of the trailblazing, smash-hit TV series, the Globelink News team are back, and now live on stage for the very first time. Starring original cast members Susannah Doyle, Robert Duncan, Ingrid Lacey, Neil Pearson, Jeff Rawle, Stephen Tompkinson and Victoria Wicks, the iconic BAFTA and EMMY award-winning comedy is reimagined in this brand-new topical commentary on the cut-throat world of 24-hour news.