Possibility of Chichester Festival Theatre autumn season now on the horizon

A limited Chichester Festival Theatre autumn season has taken a major step closer.

Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key

CFT artistic director Daniel Evans has given a delighted welcome to the news that out-door theatre is now permitted. It gives the green light to a late-summer concert in Chichester, he says – with full details to be confirmed next Tuesday.

But more importantly for the CFT, the news that pilot performances are to take place in venues to assess when indoor performances can return means that the CFT might yet have an autumn season.

Daniel said he would be looking towards late October/early November for a five-week main-house season, mostly likely based on the kinds of shows which enjoyed such success last year in the temporary Spiegeltent venue.

It’s too soon to talk about the first show back, plus people haven’t yet signed on the dotted line.

“But people have said they are very excited at the thought of coming back. We would be doing this in the main house and we would be looking to the kind of things that were popular in the Spiegeltent, things like theatre and cabaret, the things that really packed the place out.

“We are thinking about the kind of things that people might want to see, and we think that people will be ready for a good laugh by October!”

Daniel said Thursday’s government announcements were a “game-changer”: “All across the country there are people saying they can do outdoor theatre (from Saturday, July 11).”

If there is any pressure, it is the pressure the CFT are putting on themselves: “We are desperate to be ready and to get back. We would love to have a full month to five weeks. We are desperate to come back and play the part that we know the festival theatre plays in the community, particularly after this period of so much anxiety and fear and uncertainty. We know that we have got a big part to play.”

Daniel will be hoping that the CFT could even be one of the venues hosting the pilot shows which might just pave the way.

“We know what social distancing in the main house will look like. We should be able to get nearly 450 people in. We are so lucky in the assets that we have that that number should be possible.”

The precise details of how it might happen are in the government guidance.

Daniel said he welcomed the degree of detail the guidance offers.

“I haven’t yet gone through all the guidance, which is 50 pages long, with a fine-tooth comb, but I have glanced at every page and it seems to me very sensible and I am really grateful.”

The detail is crucial – and is exactly what theatres are going to want, Daniel said.

“You really wouldn’t want people coming to one theatre and saying that another theatre is doing things differently.”

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