Chichester Festival Theatre unveils 60th-anniversary 2022 summer season

A spectacular Chichester Festival Theatre 60th anniversary season will offer six world premiere productions, three musicals, five new plays and three co-productions
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

Hercule Poirot will take to the stage in Murder On The Orient Express; a new musical will celebrate Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five; Alan Bennett’s The Wind In The Willows will be the Christmas treat; and Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind is in the programme for the autumn.

CFT artistic director Daniel Evans said: “Festival 2022 places compelling stories front and centre: joyful, gripping, uplifting and provocative. They teem with 21st century teenagers and 1930s showgirls; London football fans and Scottish environmentalists; Victorian feminists fighting for justice and American politicians struggling for dominance. A celebrated sleuth, an Anglican vicar, a troubled housewife and overly-polite middle Englanders all have their battles to fight, while the Famous Five and Mole, Ratty and Toad go seeking adventure.”

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CFT executive director Kathy Bourne said: “‘2022 marks our diamond anniversary year and our sparkling Festival season offers no fewer than six world premiere productions, three musicals and a host of dramas, as well as community and digital events celebrating 60 years of CFT.

The summer will see:

Three musicals:

Susan Stroman makes her Chichester debut directing and choreographing the musical comedy Crazy For You, with music & lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, book by Ken Ludwig.

Local Hero, book by David Greig and music & lyrics by Mark Knopfler, based on the Bill Forsyth film, is directed by Daniel Evans.

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A new family musical The Famous Five, music and lyrics by Theo Jamieson, book by Elinor Cook, based on books by Enid Blyton, is directed by Tamara Harvey.

Five new plays, including three delayed from 2020:

New plays by Kate Mosse and Alecky Blythe open the season as previously announced: The Taxidermist’s Daughter directed by Róisín McBrinn, and Our Generation, a co-production with the National Theatre, directed by Daniel Evans.

The Unfriend by Steven Moffat, with Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith, directed by Mark Gatiss.

The Narcissist by Christopher Shinn, directed by Josh Seymour.

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Stephen Beresford’s The Southbury Child, directed by Nicholas Hytner in a co-production with The Bridge Theatre.

Great modern dramas:

Henry Goodman plays Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, adapted by Ken Ludwig and directed by Jonathan Church.

Nicole Charles recreates her acclaimed Chichester production of Roy Williams’s Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads in the Minerva Theatre.

Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind is directed by Justin Martin.

Coming up

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The Taxidermist’s Daughter, adapted for the stage by Kate Mosse, a new play based on her novel, directed by Róisín McBrinn, April 8-30, Festival Theatre.

1912. Connie is haunted by fitful glimpses of her past. A strange woman has been seen in the graveyard; and at Chichester’s Graylingwell Asylum, two female patients have, inexplicably, disappeared.

Our Generation, a new play by Alecky Blythe, directed by Daniel Evans, a co-production with the National Theatre, April 22-May 14, Minerva Theatre.

Alecky Blythe’s panoramic new verbatim play tells the stories of a generation. Created from five years of interviews with 12 young people from all four corners of the UK.

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Henry Goodman in Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie, adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig, directed by Jonathan Church, May 13-June 4, Festival Theatre.

The celebrated detective Hercule Poirot boards the legendary Orient Express, enjoying the prospect of a luxurious rail journey from Istanbul to Calais in the dead of winter. The train is surprisingly packed for the time of year. Only the intervention of the manager secures Poirot a first-class berth, alongside an intriguing and glittering company of international travellers.

But just after midnight, the Orient Express screeches to a halt, marooned by a snowdrift. And by morning, one passenger is dead…

Henry Goodman makes a return to Chichester to play Poirot, following his appearances in Yes, Prime Minister (2010) and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (2012-13), also directed by Jonathan Church.

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Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith in The Unfriend, a new play by Steven Moffat, directed by Mark Gatiss, May 21-July 9, Minerva Theatre.

After twenty years of marriage, Peter and Debbie are enjoying a cruise as a break from their annoying teenagers. Peter can’t resist exchanging views on Donald Trump with an American fellow passenger. There’s something slightly unsettling about the eagerly friendly Elsa Jean Krakowski – but there’s no point in rocking the boat when you’re about to get off it.

Back home, an email arrives from Elsa, followed by Elsa herself. And when Debbie googles their house guest and turns up some hair-raising evidence, their good nature is challenged as never before. Steven Moffat is an award-winning writer, whose hit television series include Doctor Who, Sherlock and Dracula – the latter two co-written with the actor and writer Mark Gatiss, who directs.

Alex Jennings in The Southbury Child, a new play by Stephen Beresford, directed by Nicholas Hytner, June 13-25, Festival Theatre. Raffish, urbane and frequently drunk, vicar David Highland has kept a grip on his remote coastal parish through a combination of disordered charm and high-handed determination.

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But when his faith impels him to take a hard line with a bereaved parishioner, he finds himself dangerously isolated from public opinion. As his own family begins to fracture and his marriage falls apart, David must face a future that threatens to extinguish not only his position in the town, but everything he stands for.

Crazy For You, music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, July 11-September 4, Festival Theatre.

Theatre-mad Bobby Child is torn between his show-business dreams and his rich, demanding New York fiancée and rich, demanding New York mother who want him to run the family bank. On his mother’s insistence, he reluctantly heads west for the bygone mining town of Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on a mortgage. There he finds the mortgage in question is on a dilapidated Victorian theatre and the owner’s daughter Polly is the girl of his dreams. Desperate to prove his good faith and win her love, Bobby lights on the idea of putting on a show – complete with glamorous dancers from New York’s Follies – to save the theatre and renew the town…

Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads by Roy Williams, directed by Nicole Charles, July 22-August 13, Minerva Theatre.

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Gina, landlady of The King George pub, has a lot on her plate. The England vs Germany World Cup qualifying match is about to start, the pub football team is about to charge in and the TV’s on the blink. Over the next few hours, national defeat looms and xenophobic tensions rise, fuelled by the inarticulate fury of the pub team captain, Lawrie, and the insidious propaganda of right-wing extremist Alan. And while policeman Lee struggles to keep the peace, disillusioned squaddie Mark and Gina’s bullied son Glen are fighting their own demons.

The Narcissist, a new play by Christopher Shinn, directed by Josh Seymour, August 26-September 24.

Everyone needs Jim. His mother. His best friend. His brother. His new lover. A hopeful future President. But can Jim really help anyone, when he isn’t sure who he is any more, or what he actually believes? An expert in electoral strategy, he’s forged a successful career by advising politicians how to communicate with voters. But following a seismic shift in the political landscape, he’s disillusioned. And his marriage is in crisis. As he juggles the demands on his life through his smartphone, will the lure of success and fame prove irresistible?

Christopher Shinn is a celebrated American playwright whose work has been produced to huge acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

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His first play, Four, premiered at the Royal Court in 1998 and, in 2008, his play Dying City was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Woman In Mind by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Justin Martin, September 23-October 15, Festival Theatre.

A knock on the head from a garden rake splits Susan’s world in two. Is she living happily with her devoted husband, charming brother and talented daughter, revelling in her rose-filled garden with its swimming pool and tennis court, and combining her blissful family life with a successful career? Or is Susan trapped in a suburban existence with her pedantic husband, resentful sister-in-law and estranged son, wrestling with desperate frustration at her aimless life of routine domesticity?

Local Hero, book by David Greig, music and lyrics by Mark Knopfler, based on the Bill Forsyth film, directed by Daniel Evans, October 8-November 19, Minerva Theatre.

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It’s 1983 and hotshot Texan oil executive Mac Macintyre is dispatched to the tiny Scottish fishing village of Ferness with $30million in his pocket. The bay may have views to die for but it’s the only place that can take the tankers from an offshore oil field, so it’s up to Mac to seal a deal on the locals’ homes and put a refinery in their place.

The villagers aren’t averse to cashing in on the black gold and Gordon, the local hotelier-lawyer-accountant-ceilidh organiser, proves a surprisingly tough negotiator.

But they’ve all overlooked one very important person. And as the northern lights dance in the skies, Mac comes to realise that not everything of value is for sale…

The Famous Five, a new musical, music & lyrics by Theo Jamieson, book by Elinor Cook, based on books by Enid Blyton, directed by Tamara Harvey, October 21-November 12, Festival Theatre. George isn’t happy at the idea of being lumbered with three unknown cousins for the summer, and her devoted dog Timmy agrees. Her cousins aren’t keen on the prospect either.

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But out in the bay lies Kirrin Island, with a ruined castle rumoured to harbour secrets. And it quickly becomes clear that five heads are better than one when it comes to solving mysteries…

Soon the Famous Five are on a daring mission with the future of the planet at stake!

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present The Wind In The Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, adapted for the stage by Alan Bennett, directed by Dale Rooks, December 17-31, Festival Theatre. Alan Bennett’s stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 story, originally seen at the National Theatre, has become a classic in its own right: faithful to the spirit of Grahame’s immortal characters while laced with Bennett’s inimitable wit, making this a delight for children and adults alike.


Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens: Saturday, March 12 (online and booking forms only); Tuesday, March 15 (phone and in person).

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General booking opens: Saturday, March 19 (online only); Tuesday, March 22 (phone and in person).; 01243 781312; tickets from £10.

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