Chichester Festival Theatre 50th anniversary season

Published: 11 February 2012
Reporter: Sheila Connor

Chichester Festival Theatre has announced the programme for its 50th anniversary season, ‘echoing and acknowledging the past while looking to the future.’

Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, an exploration of a Russian family’s passions, hopes and desires, was part of Chichester’s very first season in 1962, becoming a key part of its history and, translated by Michael Frayn, is revisited again with a new production in the Minerva Theatre from 30th March to 28th April. The cast includes Roger Allam, Dervla Kirwan and Timothy West and the play will be directed by Jeremy Herrin.

William Congreve’s witty restoration comedy, The Way of the World, in 1984 also became an emblematic production and will appear in the Festival Theatre from 13th April until 5th May, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, designer Paul Farnsworth, and starring Penelope Keith as Lady Wishfort.

Alongside the links to Chichester’s history, the commitment to developing new work remains equally important and Festival 2012 will feature two world premieres.

A Marvellous Year for Plums, a political thriller by Hugh Whitemore, is in the Festival Theatre from 11th May until 2nd June directed by Philip Franks with designer Simon Higlett.

Canvas is Michael Wynne’s first play for Chichester, a new comedy taking a witty look at the dilemmas and struggles of modern life—it will be directed by Chichester’s associate director Angus Jackson. Wynne’s last play for the Royal Court won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best Comedy.

Musicals have not been forgotten, and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate will be directed by Trevor Nunn, designed by Robert Jones and choreographed by Stephen Mear, running from 18th June to 1st September in the Festival Theatre.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht, a struggle for power among the gangsters of Chicago in the 1930s Great Depression, in a translation by George Tabori is at the Minerva from 29th June to 28th July, directed by Chichester’s artistic director Jonathan Church with Henry Goodman as Arturo Ui.

Bernard Shaw’s Heatbreak House, a witty exploration of morality, love and social mores, regarded as one of Shaw’s major plays, directed by Richard Clifford and starring Derek Jacobi, is in the Festival Theatre from 6th July until 25th August.

Yet another new play from Alan Aykbourn (his 76th) is Surprises, a comedy set in the future while its characters' hearts remain tied to the past. It plays from 8th August to 8th September, and his ever popular classic comedy Third Person Singular, three couples facing three catastrophic Christmases, is from 10th August to 8th September. Both plays are in the Minerva and both directed by Ayckbourn.

William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, a captivating tragedy of politics, power and passion, stars Kim Cattrall (of Sex and the City fame) with leading Shakespearean actor Michael Pennington, and is directed by Janet Suzman.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre presents Noah, in a new adaptation by Rachel Barnett, from 27th July to 11th August, the story of Noah’s miraculous journey to the Ark with original music, movement, masks and puppetry. The first part of the performance will begin outside in Oaklands Park before ticket holders will move to their seats in Theatre on the Fly, a temporary third auditorium which will be built on Oaklands Park, echoing the days of The Tent, the 1983 predecessor to the Minerva.

Chichester Festival Theatre has trained three young directors and this summer they will each present their debut productions in this temporary theatre commissioned, programmed and run by them. It will also house a mix of 50th Anniversary play readings, films, revues, cabarets, concerts, workshops, youth theatre work and more.

Theatre on the Fly will be designed and built by Assemble, an award-winning young collective of architects who specialise in creating temporary arts structures from reclaimed and donated materials.

The season concludes with Noel Coward’s Private Lives in the Minerva Theatre from 21st September to 27th October. Directed by Jonathan Kent with designer Anthony Ward, this is considered to be Coward’s masterpiece and fizzes with his trademark wit and dramatic precision.

Special guests for the festival are David Suchet who will give a rehearsed reading of Black Coffee by Agatha Christie on Sunday 15th July in the Minerva, and Patricia Routledge in conversation with Edward Seckerson on Monday 30th July, Tuesday 31st July and Wednesday 1st August, also in the Minerva, with Routledge recalling her considerable experience and success in musical theatre.

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