Chichester Festival Theatre vows to be ready for instant return

Chichester Festival Theatre has vowed to be ready for an instant comeback the moment they can reopen following the second national lockdown.

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 admits: “It definitely feels like levels of tiredness are creeping in now, but at the same time there is a big difference in that we know we have done it and that we have been able to put a play on.

“We had people coming through the doors (for Crave which will continue until Saturday, though live-streamed from an empty theatre from Thursday).

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

“We know that we were able to put all the safety measures in place – and we know that we can do it. And we did the Sondheim concerts on Sunday – and we live-streamed them around the world.

“So at the same time it feels like we are building up our armoury. Yes, there is a sense of tiredness, but there is also a sense of guerrilla theatre – ‘Just say the word, government, and we will be ready to go!’ And we are absolutely determined to get Pinocchio on before Christmas.”

The second national lockdown has inevitably meant a radical rethink of the Chichester Festival Theatre autumn season. Shows for the next month have been cancelled or postponed, but at least with the theatre’s recent live-streaming successes, live-streaming is now a very real option which might yet rescue some of the dates.

“2020 continues to be a rollercaster, but we are grateful to be able to live-stream Crave until Saturday. We already know that so many people have watched it around the world. We have had people watching it from Japan, Canada, Thailand, Oman, all over the place, and that has been really amazing. In that sense, 2020 has offered weird opportunities to take Chichester Festival Theatre out to truly global audiences, which has been great.

“But there is no doubting that the new announcement (of the second lockdown) was a pretty big blow. I do think it had to happen, but I do wish it had happened sooner when the scientists were calling for it. That maybe would have put us in a position where perhaps we would have been able to continue with our November slots.

“But obviously we have got to get rid of this virus. We have got to do what needs to be done, but when you hear rumours of another period of lockdown in February, then that makes it really hard. It makes it virtually impossible to plan anything.”

However, as things stand, Daniel is working on an immediate return once lockdown ends, going straight into the CFT’s Christmas concerts.

Daniel concedes it’s at least likely that the lockdown will actually be extended – but the team will be ready immediately to go ahead or have plans in place to stand down if necessary.

“We are also hoping to be able to stream some of the autumn season performances and will update you shortly. At this stage, we are also intending to retain our Christmas shows Dear Santa and Pinocchio.

“As you can imagine, there’s an immense amount for us to organise in a short space of time, so please bear with us and we’ll let you know your options as quickly as we can.

“All ticket holders will be contacted by our box office with the option of exchanges, credits, refunds or donations, taking the shows in date order, starting with venue tickets for Crave.

“You can imagine how busy our box office will be at this time, so we ask you to be patient and wait to hear from us rather than contacting us yourself.

“We will be in touch as soon as we possibly can.”

“Once again, we want to thank you, our audiences, supporters and sponsors, for staying with us during this hugely challenging period; and to the many people who have sent us good wishes and donations.”