Former Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director enjoys London success with The Price

Former Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director Jonathan Church is once again enjoying a highly-successful collaboration with former Poirot actor David Suchet.

Jonathan Church
Jonathan Church

Jonathan and David first worked together on The Last Confession during Jonathan’s tenure at the CFT; last summer Jonathan directed David again in the 50th anniversary production of Arthur Miller’s The Price at the Theatre Royal Bath.

And now, like The Last Confession before it, The Price is heading into the West End. Suchet and Brendan Coyle will both reprise their star roles, as furniture dealer Gregory Solomon and New York cop Victor Franz, at Wyndham’s Theatre from February 5 to April 27.

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Jonathan, who still lives in the Chichester area, is delighted to find history repeating itself: “It has been a pretty special thing which is partly, of course, working with David. My introduction to him was The Last Confession which went into London and then went on a world tour. After Chichester and the West End, several years later, David was just finishing Poirot and we came back to The Last Confession. This time I got to direct as the original director had passed away, and we did Australia and Canada and Los Angeles. It was nearly six months. The Price is now following a similar trajectory.”

When they first discussed The Last Confession, David made the point that it was a new play and that he didn’t want to commit beyond Chichester before seeing how the run went. It went incredibly well. David voiced similar thoughts before launching into The Price… and now London beckons.

In the piece, two brothers, Victor and Walter Franz, one a New York cop nearing retirement, the other a successful surgeon, meet for the first time in 16 years to sell their family furniture stored in the attic of a condemned New York brownstone. Revelation follows revelation as each brother realises the price they have paid for heart-breaking decisions made decades earlier.

Overseeing the psychological battlefield is the wily veteran appraiser, Gregory Solomon (Suchet), who has his own demons to conquer as well as securing the best possible price for the Franz family possessions.

“David suggested The Price as a nice piece of history. The character is 89 and when he was a young actor, he played it at the age of 29 playing nearly 90. He said ‘Most of my performance was based around Latex and make-up!’ He said he would like to come back to it closer to the right age.” David is an actor Jonathan admires hugely: “What distinguishes David is his level of absorption in the character, his level of immersion in the character.”

Whether the production will go on to tour and perhaps even come back to Chichester is, of course, impossible to say: “I have been doing this long enough to know that you take it just one step at a time.”

But Jonathan admits it would be great if it happens.

Chichester is the only theatre he has run where he has continued to live in the area after stepping down: “And it just feels right to be here and to watch what Daniel Evans is doing at the theatre (as Jonathan’s successor as artistic director).

“We were very blessed. We had such an incredibly-loyal audiences at Chichester and staff and some amazing actors. It was a series of things coming together. We have been very excited about seeing Daniel move forward with it. He has had some amazing productions over the last few seasons. It feels like it is going from strength to strength, but I smile as I think of Daniel meeting the season deadline. I do feel that he has picked up the rock and is now carrying it as I tap-dance my way down the road without having the burden of a theatre to run! But I am thrilled at what is happening. We sit like proud parents and grandparents at the theatre, enjoying it all without having to change the nappies!”