Festival of Chichester: New theatre company launched

A new theatre company has responded to an exciting new challenge for this year’s Festival of Chichester.
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The Chichester People’s Theatre, created and nurtured through Chichester Festival Theatre, makes its debut on Friday, July 7 at 7.30pm; Saturday, July 8 at 2pm; and Saturday, July 8, at 7.30pm at Chichester’s Graylingwell Chapel with a piece simply called Something!

Louise Rigglesford, senior community and outreach manager at the CFT, explains how it all came about: “This is a new initiative that we launched this year. We had auditions back in February for anybody aged 25 or over and we wanted a group of 20 people.

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"All the information that I was able to give them was that they were going to be doing a public performance, and we were able to confirm at the time that it would be part of the Festival of Chichester.

Louise Rigglesford, CFT Senior Community & Outreach ManagerLouise Rigglesford, CFT Senior Community & Outreach Manager
Louise Rigglesford, CFT Senior Community & Outreach Manager

"We had around 70 people audition which we were absolutely thrilled with. We had an instinct that there would be an appetite for this and the numbers that auditioned were proof of the pudding. We repeated the workshop four times during the day and what we were really focusing on was collaboration. We were not necessarily looking for people that have done loads of things before. We were looking for people who were able to work with people who are different to them, perhaps in approach or opinion. We wanted people who are skilled in collaboration and were open for the challenge. The whole idea was we wanted to give everybody the full ownership of the piece and throughout the process all the big decisions have been theirs.”

But the key thing was to create a show in response to this year's Chichester Festival Theatre season.

"The new company looked at the plays that were coming up and decided to focus on three of the pieces being performed this year, A View From The Bridge, Rock Follies and Never Have I Ever: “They were all pieces that took an interesting look at certain themes like feminism and interpersonal relationships and how they have changed. A View From The Bridge was the furthest back in the past, Rock Follies was 70s and 80s and Never Have I Ever was the most recent.”

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Working together, they evolved the piece that they will be performing at Graylingwell Chapel: “It is set in a failing restaurant called The Phoenix and really it's the stories of the staff and the clientele of the restaurant at a particularly troubled moment for the restaurant. It is a composite piece, a series of stories and characters. And we worked with the playwright Lucy Flannery who has helped us to link it all together with the storyline. People have responded incredibly well and it has been such an exciting thing to see how things have developed. As I said, people have taken huge levels of ownership in the piece. There have been lots of people who've been home working and thinking about it at home to the extent that there was a group that said that they had musical skills and wanted to add in a couple of songs. They've all really worked together brilliantly. The feedback both formally and informally has been fantastic.”

And the hope is that it will build a platform for future years: “This is the first time we've done it and I would really hope that it acts as a pilot and that it could develop as an annual programme and that we will be back at the Festival of Chichester next year.”