Juggling GCSEs and a Christmas on the Chichester Festival Theatre stage

Richard Chapman (Lion) in rehearsal for CFYT's The Wizard of Oz Photo by Helen Murray
Richard Chapman (Lion) in rehearsal for CFYT's The Wizard of Oz Photo by Helen Murray

Next year is the big GCSE year for Richard Chapman (16) – and as far as Richard is concerned, that’s even more reason to take to the stage in The Wizard of Oz this Christmas.

Richard, a student at Bishop Luffa, will be playing the Lion in Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s annual festive slot on the main-house stage.

And he insists the impact on his studies will be solely positive.

“I thought it was going to be quite difficult to juggle it all, but actually it helps me manage my time a lot better. It makes me a lot more organised!”

Richard is pleased to say he has been a member of the youth theatre for years now: “I absolutely love it.

“I think what makes it so special are all the people that do it. We all become so close. We are all great friends, and that helps so much.

“We just all become so comfortable with each other. In your break, you could go off and meet friends in town, but I would rather just stay with the people I am with in the youth theatre.

“And what makes it super-special for me this year is that this is my first principal role. This is my fifth show.

“There was Running Wild and then Grimm Tales in the summer of year eight and then Beauty and the Beast at Christmas in year nine and then last year there was Sleeping Beauty.

“In a way, I think Running Wild was a real highlight. It was my first time learning about how theatre works and being in a proper theatre environment.

“It was such a special thing, and it was an amazing play.”

Richard will be hoping for similarly special experiences in The Wizard of Oz: “The lion is a great character. From the auditions, I knew that I wanted to play him.

“He says lots of funny one-liners. He is a coward or thinks he is a coward, but the whole story is that he sets out on the journey in order to find courage.

“But along the way he finds out that he really does have courage all along.

“I think what makes it brilliant is that he is a lion which is inherently quite a titan in the natural world.

“He is supposed to be super confident and assertive and he is not and that is why he thinks he needs to find courage.”

But the point is that he is actually courageous – a fact which ties in with the lessons which Dorothy herself is learning.

“At the end Dorothy realises that she didn’t have to go looking quite so far for all the things she thought she wanted.

“She doesn’t really have to look any further than her own home, and it is such a lovely message.

“And it is also quite a deep message for a show which is apparently so light-hearted. It is such a good message to spread, especially at Christmas.”

L Frank Baum’s classic will be on Chichester’s main-house stage, running from December 14-29, with a recommended age of seven. It will be directed by Lucy Betts in the year which sees the 80th anniversary of the release of the landmark Judy Garland film.

The CFT are promising a faithful adaptation of Baum’s classic novel in a version which was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and features all the songs from the 1939 movie, including Over the Rainbow, If I Only Had a Brain and We’re Off To See The Wizard.

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