Everything you need to know: Chichester Festival Theatre summer 2022

Your full guide to all the Chichester Festival Theatre productions this summer
Alecky Blythe - photo by Idil SukanAlecky Blythe - photo by Idil Sukan
Alecky Blythe - photo by Idil Sukan


Adapted for the stage by Kate Mosse

A new play based on her novel

Directed by Róisín McBrinn

8 – 30 April, Festival Theatre

1912. In the isolated Blackthorn House on Sussex’s Fishbourne Marshes, Connie Gifford lives with her father. His Museum of Avian Taxidermy was once legendary, but since its closure Gifford has become a broken man, taking refuge in the bottle.

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Robbed of her childhood memories by a mysterious accident, 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.

As a major storm hits the Sussex landscape, old wounds are about to be opened as one woman, intent on revenge, attempts to liberate another from the horrifying crimes of the past.

A story of retribution and justice, The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a thrilling Gothic mystery set in and around historic Chichester. This world premiere is written by Cicestrian Kate Mosse, based on her No 1 internationally best-selling novel.

Kate Mosse’s novels include The Languedoc Trilogy (Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel), The Winter Ghosts and her new historical series, The Burning Chambers and The City of Tears; non-fiction includes An Extra Pair of Hands. She is Founder Director of the Women's Prize for Fiction, Founder of the global Woman in History campaign and Visiting Professor in Contemporary Fiction & Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.

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The cast is Geoff Aymer, Pearl Chanda (as Cassie), William Chubb, Tim Frances, Daisy Prosper (as Connie), Forbes Masson, Taheen Modak, Akai Osei, Alastair Parker, Raad Rawi, Howard Saddler, Posy Sterling and Connie Walker.

Róisín McBrinn is Joint Artistic Director of Clean Break; elsewhere she has directed many productions for theatres including The Abbey and Gate Theatres (Dublin), Leeds Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, Donmar Warehouse, Bush Theatre and Sherman Theatre.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter will be designed by Paul Wills, with lighting by Prema Mehta, music, sound and musical direction by Sinéad Diskin, video design by Andrzej Goulding, movement by Chi-San Howard, fight direction by Rc-Annie and casting by Charlotte Sutton.



A new play by Alecky Blythe

Directed by Daniel Evans

A co-production with the National Theatre

22 April – 14 May, Minerva Theatre

You may not know them yet – but you’ll never forget them.

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Meet Mia, who wants to be on Jeremy Kyle. And Robyn, who wants a job. When Ayesha and her brother Ali aren’t bickering, they’re dreaming of going on Hajj or to Australia to get a tan. Lucas wants to get into Edinburgh and get a girlfriend. Basketball holds the future for Taylor and Luan, but for Callum it’s politics. Ierum’s only allowed on her phone at the weekends; Annabella receives surprising news via Snapchat. Emily, whose dad is the housemaster, is predicted to get ten A*s. Zac has six piano concerts in five days.

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, Our Generation is a captivating portrait of their teenage years as they journey into adulthood.

Often too extraordinary to be fiction, this funny and moving play is for anyone who is – or has ever been – a teenager.

CFT Artistic Director Daniel Evans directs this co-production with the National Theatre, which runs at the Minerva Theatre immediately following its London premiere.

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The cast is Dee Ahluwalia, Joe Bolland, Anna Burnett, Anushka Chakravarti, Debbie Chazen, Gavi Singh Chera, Rachelle Diedericks, Hasan Dixon, Hélder Fernandes, Sarita Gabony, Conor Gormally, Alex Jarrett, Callum Mardy, Poppy Shepherd and Stephanie Street, who returns to Chichester where she played Diana Ingram in Quiz in 2017.

Alecky Blythe’s acclaimed verbatim musical London Road premiered at the National Theatre in 2011 and she later adapted it for the 2015 feature film. Her other work includes Little Revolution (Almeida Theatre) and The Riots: In Their Own Words for BBC2.

Our Generation marks Daniel Evans’s directorial debut at the National Theatre; as an actor, his work there included Cardiff East, Peter Pan, Troilus and Cressida, Candide and The Merchant of Venice. His Chichester productions include South Pacific, This Is My Family, Quiz and Fiddler on the Roof.

Our Generation has set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Kinnetia Isidore, video design by Akhila Krishnan, lighting design by Zoe Spurr, sound design by Paul Arditti, movement direction by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, music composition, production & direction by DJ Walde, dramaturgy by Sebastian Born and casting by Charlotte Sutton.

Contains strong language; recommended for ages 13+.



By Agatha Christie

Adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig

Directed by Jonathan Church

13 May – 4 June, Festival Theatre

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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…

Nobody can leave. A guard appears to be missing. A killer is in their midst. And Poirot must deploy his ‘little grey cells’ on the most difficult case of his career: one that will force him to question his deepest beliefs.

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Adapted from Agatha Christie’s masterpiece by Ken Ludwig, this spectacular and sumptuous new staging is directed by former CFT Artistic Director Jonathan Church (Amadeus, Singin’ in the Rain, Arturo Ui) and designed by Robert Jones (Oklahoma!, Mack & Mabel).

Henry Goodman makes a welcome 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, and which both transferred to the West End. His many other roles encompass his Olivier Award-winning Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Roy Cohn in the UK premiere of Angels in America and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls (all National Theatre), Volpone for the RSC, and Assassins for which he also won an Olivier Award at the Donmar Warehouse.

Ken Ludwig has had six productions on Broadway and seven in London’s West End. His 28 plays and musicals are staged around the world and throughout the United States every night of the year. His shows have won five Tony Awards. He has also won two Laurence Olivier Awards, the Edwin Forrest Award for Contributions to the American Theater, two Helen Hayes Awards, the Charles MacArthur Award, and the Edgar Award for Best Mystery of the Year. For more information, visit kenludwig.com.

The production will have lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Adrian Sutton, sound by Christopher Shutt, movement by Lucy Hind, and casting by Gabrielle Dawes.


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Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith in THE UNFRIEND

A new play by Steven Moffat

Directed by Mark Gatiss

21 May – 9 July, 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. What kind of danger have they allowed to take up residence in their spare room? And can they bring themselves to say anything about it? Sometimes, the truth is just too impolite.

The Unfriend takes a hugely entertaining and satirical look at middle-class England’s disastrous instinct always to appear nice. Manners can be murder.

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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.

Mark Gatiss is also a member of the sketch comedy team The League of Gentlemen alongside Reece Shearsmith, who plays Peter. Last seen at Chichester in The Dresser, Reece’s recent work also includes Hangmen (Royal Court) and TV’s Inside No 9.

Amanda Abbington, whose credits include TV’s Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, and The Son in the West End, makes her Chichester debut as Debbie.

Frances Barber, last seen here in Uncle Vanya (1996) returns as Elsa; her extensive screen work includes The Mezzotint, Silk and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

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The cast also includes Michael Simkins, whose CFT appearances include Fracked! and Yes Prime Minister.

The Unfriend will be designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Ella Wahlström and casting by Charlotte Sutton.



A new play by Stephen Beresford

Directed by Nicholas Hytner

A co-production with The Bridge Theatre

13 – 25 June, 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.

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.

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Stephen Beresford’s darkly comic new play is an exploration of family and community, the savage divisions of contemporary society and the rituals that punctuate our lives. His work includes The Last of the Haussmans at the National Theatre, an adaptation of Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander for The Old Vic and the BAFTA-winning film Pride.

Triple Olivier Award-winner Alex Jennings returns to Chichester to lead the cast. The Southbury Child reunites him with Nicholas Hytner who has previously directed him in Hymn and Cocktail Sticks, Collaborators, The Habit of Art, The Alchemist and The Winter’s Tale (all at the National Theatre) amongst others. His many other credits range from My Fair Lady to Stuff Happens and Hansard at the NT, as well as Hamlet for the RSC. His screen work includes The Crown, The Lady in the Van, The Queen, Victoria, A Very English Scandal and Small Axe: Mangrove.

Nicholas Hytner also makes a welcome return to Chichester, where he previously directed The Scarlet Pimpernel (with a cast including Alex Jennings) in 1985. Director of the National Theatre from 2003-215, he is Co-Founder of the Bridge Theatre where his recent work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beat The Devil, Bach & Sons and the forthcoming The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage and Straight Line Crazy.

The production will have set designs by Mark Thompson and costume by Yvonne Milnes, with lighting by Max Narula, sound by George Dennis and casting by Robert Sterne.



Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin

Book by Ken Ludwig

Co-conception by Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent

Inspired by material by Guy Bolton and John MacGowan

Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman

11July – 4 September, Festival Theatre

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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…

This hilarious, riotously entertaining musical is packed with glorious Gershwin melodies (including Someone to Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm and They Can’t Take That Away from Me), and its stunning tap-dance routines are guaranteed to set the spirits soaring. The witty book and dialogue are written by Ken Ludwig, who also wrote this season’s Murder on the Orient Express and is the author of the Tony Award-winning Lend Me a Tenor.

This brand-new production, which celebrates the work’s 30th anniversary, is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman: true Broadway royalty and winner of five Tony and two Olivier Awards for productions including The Producers, Contact and The Scottsboro Boys.

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The set designer is Beowulf Boritt the costume designer is William Ivey Long; musical director, Alan Williams; with new orchestrations by Doug Besterman and Mark Cumberland, original orchestrations by William David Brohn, lighting design by Ken Billington, sound design by Kai Harada, new arrangements by David Krane, original arrangements by Peter Howard and casting by Jill Green.



Directed by Nicole Charles

22 July – 13 August, Minerva Theatre

Saturday 7 October. 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.

Premiered at the National Theatre in 2002, Roy Williams’s ferocious, funny and disturbing play takes aim at what it means to be black, white and English in twenty-first century Britain. Scoring high on foul language, threat and vulgar humour, Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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Nicole Charles’s much-praised production, which earned critical and public acclaim when it was staged in Chichester’s Spiegeltent in 2019, returns for a run in World Cup and Women’s Euro year in the Minerva Theatre, part of which will be transformed into a pub setting to create an immersive theatrical experience.

Roy Williams’s award-winning plays include Death of England and Death of England: Delroy (both co-written with Clint Dyer for the National Theatre); Sucker Punch, Fallout, Clubland and Lift Off (Royal Court); and Days of Significance (RSC).

Nicole Charles’s recent work also includes Emilia at Shakespeare’s Globe and in the West End.

Original cast members Kirsty J Curtis, Jennifer Daley, Michael Hodgson and Mark Springer return, with further casting to be announced.



A new play by Christopher Shinn

Directed by Josh Seymour

26 August – 24 September, Minerva Theatre

Everyone needs Jim.

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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?

The Narcissist is a gripping, inventive and witty take on personal and political communication in the internet age.

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

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Josh Seymour was formerly Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse and won the 2016 Off-West End Award for Best Director for Tennessee Williams’s One Arm at Southwark Playhouse. His theatre credits also include Associate Director on A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic, and The Normal Heart and Follies at the National Theatre.

The production will be designed by Jasmine Swan, with lighting by Jess Bernberg, sound by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, movement by Chi-San Howard and casting by Amy Ball.


WOMAN IN MIND by Alan Ayckbourn

Directed by Justin Martin

23 September – 15 October, 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?

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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?

Which of these lives is real? Which one does she want? And is Susan in control of either of them?

Alan Ayckbourn’s dazzling black comedy takes us on a dizzying journey through the looking glass into a woman’s mind.

The author of over 80 plays, Ayckbourn has won countless awards for his work including Olivier and Tony Lifetime Achievement Awards. Previous productions at Chichester include The Norman Conquests, Way Upstream, Absurd Person Singular, Surprises and A Small Family Business.

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Justin Martin makes his directorial debut at Chichester. His West End work includes Prima Facie and The Jungle (also New York), the latter co-directed with Stephen Daldry with whom he also collaborated on TV’s Together and The Crown.

Woman in Mind will be designed by Sophie Thomas with casting by Charlotte Sutton.



Book by David Greig

Music and lyrics by Mark Knopfler

Based on the Bill Forsyth film

Directed by Daniel Evans

8 October – 19 November, Minerva Theatre

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.

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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 book by David Greig (Artistic Director of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre), based on Bill Forsyth’s iconic film, features new songs by the legendary Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits). This new musical version of Local Hero will win devotees from admirers of the beloved film as well as those coming fresh to this funny and enchanting story. It’s directed by Daniel Evans, whose previous Chichester productions include South Pacific, Quiz, Fiddler on the Roof and this season’s Our Generation.

Local Hero will be designed by Frankie Bradshaw; the musical director will be Richard John and the music producer, Guy Fletcher; with orchestrations and arrangements by Dave Milligan, sound by Paul Arditti and casting by Charlotte Sutton.



A new musical

Music & lyrics by Theo Jamieson

Book by Elinor Cook

Based on books by Enid Blyton

Directed by Tamara Harvey

A co-production with Theatr Clwyd

21 October – 12 November, 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. Julian’s struggling to live up to the responsibility of being the eldest; Anne is working out how to make her voice heard; while Dick would like everyone to stop fussing and focus on more important things. Like sandwiches.

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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!

Based on Enid Blyton’s multi-million-selling novels, this brand new musical written by Elinor Cook, with music and lyrics by Theo Jamieson, is an exciting and heart-warming family treat celebrating adventure, bravery and friendship for everyone aged 7+.

Tamara Harvey, Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd, directs this co-production. Her work includes the Olivier award-winning Home, I’m Darling, Peter Gill’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya and productions for Shakespeare’s Globe, Bush Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and in the West End.

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The Famous Five will be designed by Lucy Osborne, with choreography by Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster, musical supervision by David White and Benjamin Holder, musical direction by Katherine Rockhill, orchestrations by Theo Jamieson, lighting by Johanna Town, video design by Ash Woodward and casting by Charlotte Sutton.

There will be a Polish-interpreted performance of The Famous Five on 26 October at 7pm, and a Relaxed Performance on 28 October at 2pm.


Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

By Kenneth Grahame

Adapted for the stage by Alan Bennett

Music and additional lyrics by Jeremy Sams

Directed by Dale Rooks

17 – 31 December, Festival Theatre

Press night: Wednesday 21 December

The inquisitive Mole abandons spring-cleaning his burrow and, to his delight, discovers the river. There he meets Ratty, a water vole with a passion for boats. Soon the two are firm friends and settle down to life in Ratty’s riverbank home, surrounded by the neighbouring otters, rabbits, fieldmice and hedgehogs.

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Over at Toad Hall, the ebullient Toad persuades them to join an excursion in a horse-pulled caravan – only for disaster to strike when they are overturned into a ditch. But the accident ignites Toad’s passion for motorcars…

And Mole can’t resist the temptation of another adventure, braving the snowy and threatening Wild Wood to find the elusive Badger, who welcomes Mole and Rat into his own cosy home.

But can the three friends save Toad from the consequences of his terrible driving, and defeat their enemies, the hungry and wily weasels and ferrets?

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.

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Dale Rooks, whose Chichester productions include The Butterfly Lion, The Midnight Gang and Pinocchio, directs a Chichester Festival Youth Theatre show that perfectly combines humour and enchantment with a delicious shiver of danger.

The Wind in the Willows will have set design by Simon Higlett, costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight, musical direction by Colin Billing, lighting by James Whiteside and sound by Gregory Clarke.

Recommended for ages 7+. There will be a Relaxed performance on 28 December at 2pm, and a Polish-interpreted performance on 20 December at 2pm.



Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens:

Saturday 12 March (online and booking forms only)

Tuesday 15 March (phone and in person)

Booking for Groups and Schools opens:

Thursday 10 March

General booking opens:

Saturday 19 March (online only)

Tuesday 22 March (phone and in person)

cft.org.uk Box Office 01243 781312

Tickets from £10

Prologue: £5 tickets for 16 – 30s

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10,000 £5 tickets are available for 16 to 30 year-olds for all productions throughout Festival 2022; sign up for free at cft.org.uk/prologue. Members also have access to a range of exclusive events.

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