What's coming up at Chichester Festival Theatre this winter
A varied programme lies ahead...
Hugh Dennis, Lesley Garrett & John Marquez in THE MESSIAH. Festival Theatre, 12 – 17 November
A hilarious Christmas comedy that promises to be the funniest and most magical Nativity you will ever see. A travelling theatre troupe of two actors and an opera singer arrive by camel in the ancient town of Chichester to masterfully enact the greatest story every told.
Directly prior to the West End, this new comedy of Biblical proportions, written by the Olivier Award-winning writer Patrick Barlow (The 39 Steps), sees Hugh Dennis (Outnumbered, Mock the Week), opera star Lesley Garrett and John Marquez (Doc Martin, In the Club) play a cast of thousands in a Christmas comedy that conjures up the sublime, the ridiculous and the truly angelic.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Festival Theatre, 20 – 24 November
Young Will Shakespeare has writer’s block and he’s in dire need of inspiration. Then he meets the beguiling Viola de Lesseps, who is prepared to do anything – including risking the frosty disapproval of Queen Elizabeth I – to fulfil her illicit dream of performing on the London stage and pursuing a passionate affair with the greatest playwright of the age.
This adaptation by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s multi award-winning film classic, with music by Paddy Cunneen, is exuberant, witty, funny, and a beautiful homage to love, art, and the theatre itself.
This new production is directed by Philip Breen, whose recent RSC productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Hypocrite have been highly acclaimed.
Ruth Jones in THE NIGHTINGALES. Festival Theatre, 27 November – 1 December
One of the UK’s best-loved stars, Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey, The Street) makes a rare stage appearance in an intriguing new comedy by actor/playwright William Gaminara (Silent Witness, The Archers, An Enemy of the People), directed by Christopher Luscombe (Love’s Labour’s Lost & Much Ado About Nothing).
When the local acapella group gather in the village hall they have every reason to look forward to their weekly rehearsal. Whatever their differences, whatever the problems they may have at home, all are happily bound together in their shared love of music. The two hours of laughter and harmonies fly by. Until one day newcomer Maggie knocks on the door and everything changes…
CHRISTMAS CONCERTS. Festival Theatre, 4 – 8 December
The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and Chichester Cathedral Choir lead a celebration of the festive season with traditional carols, seasonal sing-alongs and the inevitable Christmas cracker jokes. From Jingle Bells to Silent Night, and the extraordinary Corps of Drums, this is a sleighful of Christmas cheer. Once again there’s a chance to vote for your favourite Christmas song, with audience and band joining together to give it a rousing rendition.
Chichester Festival Youth Theatre presents
SLEEPING BEAUTY. Festival Theatre, 15 – 30 December
For ages 7+. Relaxed performance: 30 December at 2pm
A princess under a fairy’s curse pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps for a hundred years, waiting to be woken by a prince’s kiss.
But hold on a moment. There’s a distinctly different slant to this story. The princess is beautiful and spirited but there are two princes and a lot of threatening thorns. As for the fairy who caused all the trouble in the first place – well, putting things right isn’t as simple as casting another spell.
Rufus Norris’s splendidly entertaining and mischievous version of the original fairy tale ventures beyond the usual ‘happy ever after’ ending with the prince and princess united. The course of true love never did run smooth – especially if your mother-in-law is an ogress with an unfortunate taste for human flesh...
Chichester Festival Youth Theatre are renowned for their wonderfully imaginative productions. They follow their five-star versions of Grimm Tales and Beauty and the Beast with a Sleeping Beauty that will keep you wide awake.
Rufus Norris’s version of Sleeping Beauty premiered at the Young Vic (2002). He is Director of the National Theatre.
Lucy Betts, whose many productions at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford have included The Wizard of Oz, Oliver! and James and the Giant Peach, directs a visually stunning production with sets by Simon Higlett, costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight and new music by Tom Brady.
MOSCOW CITY BALLET: THE NUTCRACKER. Festival Theatre, 3 – 6 January
Moscow City Ballet return to Chichester with their spectacular production of The Nutcracker: an unmissable climax to the festive season, presented in classic Russian style with full orchestra.
The timeless story of Clara, who is whisked away on a magical adventure by her Nutcracker Prince, The Nutcracker is set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. With stunning costumes and sumptuous sets, this is an enchanting treat for the whole family.
TWELFTH NIGHT. Minerva Theatre, 15 – 26 January
Flute Theatre’s unique production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, adapted by Kelly Hunter with music by Tom Chapman, has been performed across Europe and makes its UK premiere at the Minerva. Viola is saved from drowning with a bucket of freezing water and welcomed into Illyria by a mysterious clown who leads us all on a melodious and dreamlike odyssey.
With nothing but instruments, costumes and props that may have been washed up on a beach, the cast of seven actors are swung between characters, between actor and musician, and between love and madness by this whirligig of a play.
In conjunction with Twelfth Night, Flute Theatre also present an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream specifically for young people with autism and their families, running at the Minerva from 16 – 26 January.
Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson & Stephen Tompkinson in ART. Festival Theatre, 24 January – 2 February
Art is one of the most successful comedies ever staged. Since its 1996 premiere, Yasmina Reza’s multi award-winning study of friendship, prejudice and tolerance (translated by Christopher Hampton) has been packing audiences in worldwide.
When Serge spends an extortionate amount of money on an all-white modernist painting, his close friends Marc and Yvan are baffled. But does their violent reaction to this provocative canvas mirror more dangerous antagonisms towards each other?
The all-star cast features BAFTA-nominated Nigel Havers (Downton Abbey, Chariots of Fire), Olivier Award-winning Denis Lawson (Bleak House, New Tricks) and British Comedy Award-winning Stephen Tompkinson (The Split, Wild at Heart, Ballykissangel).
TRIAL BY LAUGHTER. Festival Theatre, 4 – 9 February
Following their acclaimed The Wipers Times, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have once again taken inspiration from real life events for their new play.
William Hone, the forgotten hero of free speech, was a bookseller, publisher and satirist. In 1817, he stood trial for ‘impious blasphemy and seditious libel’. The only crime he had committed was parodying religious texts and being funny about the despotic government and libidinous monarchy. Along with his great ally, political cartoonist George Cruickshank, Hone fought for freedom in one of the most remarkable legal cases of its time.
Ian Hislop has been editor of Private Eye since 1986; he frequently appears on Question Time and is team captain on Have I Got News For You. Nick Newman is an award-winning writer and cartoonist. Together they have written for many TV and radio comedy series; their play and film The Wipers Times was nominated for a BAFTA.
Frantic Assembly: THE UNRETURNING Minerva Theatre, 5 – 9 February
A British northern coastal town. Three young men are coming home from the war. Their stories, set at different times over the last 100 years, are beautifully interwoven in this compelling new play by Anna Jordan.
Directed by Frantic Assembly’s Associate Director Neil Bettles and featuring Frantic’s celebrated physicality, The Unreturning explores the profound effect that war has on young lives, and asks – what does coming home really mean? What is home? And when experience has shattered you into a million pieces, will home help to put you together again, or treat you as an ugly truth it does not want to confront?
Suitable for ages 14+; contains very strong language.
Miles Jupp in The Life I Lead Minerva Theatre, 11 – 16 February
The actor David Tomlinson is best remembered as Mr Banks in Disney’s classic Mary Poppins but his real life was just as fascinating as any of the parts he played. He was a World War II fighter pilot and his life also featured a certain amount of heartbreak, not least the tragic death of his first wife and his later struggles to have his son recognised as one of the first British cases of autism.
Above all, the man who portrayed one of cinema’s most famous patriarchs was defined by his relationship with his own father – a remote, eccentric character who was hiding an extraordinary tragicomic secret.
In this new comedy by James Kettle, directed by Selina Cadell, Miles Jupp (Rev, The Thick of It, The News Quiz) brings Tomlinson to life, retelling his remarkable story in a richly comic and moving tale of fathers and sons across different generations, filling in the blanks behind a very well-known face.
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