Strong booking as Chichester Festival Theatre summer season approaches

CFT bosses are reporting an excellent response from the public as the new season nears.

Forty Years On: Richard Wilson
Forty Years On: Richard Wilson

New artistic director Daniel Evans said: “We’re absolutely thrilled by the reaction of our audiences to Festival 2017. My favourite responses thus far have been from a few people who’ve said ‘I want to see everything in the season.’ Plenty of tickets remain for nearly all the shows, however, so it’s certainly not too late if you haven’t booked yet. It feels like we’re in for a very lovely summer.”

Minerva and main-house will work hand in hand in the first season from Daniel and executive director Rachel Tackley.

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One Foot in the Grave star Richard Wilson as the Headmaster in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On opens the season from April 21-May 20 on the main-house stage.

Playing opposite it in the Minerva will be an Olivier Award-winning musical mixing blues, soul, Motown, classical music and Jewish folk songs to promise a “beautiful, uplifting and deeply-moving portrait of America” at a time of momentous social upheaval spurred by the civil rights movement.

Caroline, Or Change will run from May 6-June 3.

The show is set in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline Thibodeaux is an African American maid earning 30 dollars a week working for the Jewish Gellman family. She is 39, a single parent and the mother of four children. Eight-year-old Noah Gellman visits Caroline in the basement as she works, washing and ironing. But when the boy begins leaving loose change in his laundry, his stepmother Rose devises a deterrent with revealing and far-reaching consequences.

Sharon D Clarke makes her Chichester debut. Equally known as a singer and actor, her Olivier Award-winning stage and screen work encompasses Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Amen Corner at the National Theatre, Ghost the Musical and We Will Rock You in the West End and Holby City on TV.

“In the main-house we will have a very popular and poignant comedy,” says Daniel. “In the Minerva we will have this. Obama has just left the White House and times are changing. We thought it would be very interesting to look at this piece that takes places at the beginning of the civil rights movement. It is partly a domestic story, but also has wider political repercussions.”

Next in the Minerva will be The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien; directed by Lisa Blair, June 9-July 8,

The 1950s. Rural Ireland. Kate and Baba are best friends who long to escape their traditional families and convent school. When they finally rebel and make a break for it, their lives burst open. As they forge new identities in Dublin, the childhood friends must discover if it is possible to grow up without growing apart. Edna O’Brien’s novel The Country Girls was banned in Ireland on publication in 1960. From her book, O’Brien has created a new free-flowing play which is offered as a “frank, lyrical and wrenching exploration of young women, the loss of innocence and the tenacity of love and hope.”

“She did it as a play seven years ago,” Daniel says, “but this version is brand new. It is very moving, and the energy of the piece is really quite explosive. There is something very appealing about the two young women.”

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