Chichester Festival Theatre 2018 season announcement

Chichester Festival Theatre’s Festival 2018, the second season under the leadership of Artistic Director Daniel Evans and Executive Director Rachel Tackley is announced today. Building on the success of a record-breaking season in 2017, it offers a kaleidoscopic array of classics, musicals and new work – illustrating the breadth of CFT’s work and determination to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

  • Festival 2018 includes classic comedies, powerful contemporary dramas and timely revivals, as well as two musicals and a family show
  • New plays by Charlotte Jones, Bryony Lavery and Laura Wade
  • Headline actors include Rufus Hound, Penelope Keith, Amanda Root, Oliver Ford Davies, Susannah Fielding, Caroline Quentin, Charles Edwards, Paul Jesson, Clare Burt, Joanna Riding and Gary Wilmot
  • Directors new to the Festival are Natalie Abrahami, Michael Blakemore, Tinuke Craig, Sean Foley, Kate Hewitt and Dale Rooks, alongside Daniel Evans, Jonathan Munby, Alan Strachan and Samuel West
  • Over 20,000 tickets at £10 in the Festival Theatre
  • Major revivals of classic and contemporary dramas:
  • Sean Foley directs Rufus Hound in Noël Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER
  • debbie tucker green’s random and generations are directed in a double bill by Tinuke Craig
  • Penelope Keith, Amanda Root and Oliver Ford Davies lead the cast of Enid Bagnold’s THE CHALK GARDEN, directed by Alan Strachan
  • Jonathan Munby directs Wycherley’s Restoration comedy THE COUNTRY WIFE, with Susannah Fielding
  • Michael Frayn’s COPENHAGEN receives a 20th anniversary revival by original director Michael Blakemore
  • COCK by Mike Bartlett is directed by Kate Hewitt
  • Two musicals directed by Daniel Evans:
  • ME AND MY GIRL, with Caroline Quentin
  • Clare Burt, Joanna Riding and Gary Wilmot lead the cast of FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS
  • Three new plays:
  • THE MEETING by Charlotte Jones, directed by Natalie Abrahami
  • THE WATSONS by Laura Wade, directed by Samuel West
  • Bryony Lavery adapts David Walliams’s THE MIDNIGHT GANG, with music & lyrics by Joe Stilgoe, directed by Dale Rooks
  • Chichester Festival Youth Theatre presents Rufus Norris’s version of SLEEPING BEAUTY in the Festival Theatre for Christmas
  • 10,000 £5 PROLOGUE tickets for 16 – 25 year olds 
  • Three Festival 2017 productions will transfer to London this year

Daniel Evans and Rachel Tackley said: ‘We’re enormously grateful for the warm welcome extended to us by our local community and those visiting from further afield during our first season, which welcomed Chichester’s largest-ever Festival audience.

‘Festival 2018 is all about breadth of choice, perfectly illustrated by our opening plays: Noël Coward in the Festival Theatre and debbie tucker green in the Minerva. We have three new plays by outstanding playwrights Charlotte Jones, Bryony Lavery and Laura Wade, and revivals of significant contemporary work by Mike Bartlett and Michael Frayn. We look forward to welcoming three of the UK’s brightest young directors – Natalie Abrahami, Tinuke Craig and Kate Hewitt – to Chichester for the first time, alongside welcome debuts by Michael Blakemore and Sean Foley. And we’re thrilled that our brilliant Dale Rooks, who has given us so many outstanding Youth Theatre productions including Running Wild, makes her Festival debut with a show for all ages.

‘This season we will achieve a 50:50 gender balance in our acting company, which includes some of the most exciting and beloved names in British theatre. We’re pleased to have over 20,000 tickets available at £10 in the Festival Theatre – double the number of previous years and now available at every performance; and the price of tickets for our rapidly growing Prologue scheme for 16 to 25 year olds remains at £5. During 2017 we reached 62,000 people aged 0 – 92 through our community and education outreach programmes; among these is our recently launched CFT Buddies scheme, providing a companion for elderly or socially isolated people.

‘Finally, we’re delighted that three Festival 2017 productions will reach a wider audience in London this year: Caroline, Or Change at Hampstead, and Quiz and King Lear in the West End.’



Directed by Sean Foley

20 April – 12 May, Festival Theatre

Press night: Thursday 26 April

Actor Garry Essendine is at the height of his fame. He’s handsome, witty, surrounded by adoring fans, and about to take his latest theatrical hit overseas. He’s also in the middle of a raging mid-life crisis.

Holed up in his studio, he is assailed from all quarters: a beautiful debutante wants to bed him, an aspiring playwright from Uckfield wants to worship him, and his own producer’s wife wants to… well, what exactly does she want? Under the sardonic eye of his long-suffering secretary and the unshockable gaze of his estranged but determined wife, Garry struggles to keep all the balls in the air.

This sparkling comedy about sex, fame and the theatre itself – and a man wrestling with his own self-image – is widely regarded as Noël Coward’s most autobiographical play.

Sean Foley’s hit West End productions include The Painkiller, Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Olivier Award for Best Comedy), The LadykillersThe Dresser (at Chichester in 2016) and  the multi award-winning The Play What I Wrote.

Actor, comedian and presenter Rufus Hound plays Garry, returning to Chichester following Neville’s Island (2013). His stage work also includes One Man, Two Guvnors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End).

 Present Laughter will be designed by Alice Power, with lighting by Mark Henderson, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, and movement by Lizzi Gee.

 random / generations

A double bill of plays by debbie tucker green

Directed by Tinuke Craig

4 May – 2 June, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Thursday 10 May


‘never trouble trouble til trouble trouble you’. But trouble does arrive. And changes everything.

This blistering play, told through the eyes of a young woman, explores the unbearable sense of loss felt by a family faced with a catastrophic and random act.


In the cradle of their South African family, Boyfriend and Girlfriend are beginning their lives together, just as Mama and Dad, and Grandad and Nana, did before them. Until, one by one, family members start to disappear.

Fierce, warm and funny, these two short and haunting dramas, presented here in a double bill, examine love, life and loss through the lives of two families on two continents. random is an extraordinary play for one actress, whilst the generations company includes a South African choir.

A playwright, screenwriter and director, debbie tucker green is one of theatre’s most original and internationally acclaimed voices. She won the Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 2004 for born bad, and the 2012 BAFTA Award for Best Single Drama for the television version of random.

Both plays are directed by Tinuke Craig, making her Chichester debut. Winner of the 2014 Genesis Future Director Award and Associate Director at the Gate Theatre 2015-2016, her credits include debbie tucker green’s dirty butterfly at the Young Vic.

 random and generations will be designed by Alex Lowde, with lighting by Joshua Drualus Pharo and movement by Morgann Runacre Temple.

THE CHALK GARDEN by Enid Bagnold

Directed by Alan Strachan

25 May – 16 June, Festival Theatre

Press night: Thursday 31 May

Nothing will grow for eccentric, high-born Mrs St Maugham in the dry earth of her once grand Sussex garden. Indoors, the situation is even worse. Her wild and damaged granddaughter, sixteen-year-old Laurel, sets fires and throws tantrums.

When the enigmatic Miss Madrigal arrives to take up the post of Laurel’s companion, the household is disconcerted by her evasive oddity. Where has she come from, and why does she refuse to speak about her past?

Both singular comedy and haunting mystery, this startling insight into mother-daughter relationships is regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable plays. The author of many books and dramas, Enid Bagnold is still best known for her 1935 novel, National Velvet.

Penelope Keith makes a welcome return to Chichester to play Mrs St Maugham. Her roles here encompass The Apple Cart, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Way of the World, Entertaining Angels and Mrs Pat.

 Amanda Root, returning to Chichester following The Deep Blue Sea (2011), plays Miss Madrigal; Oliver Ford Davies, who appeared in Goodnight Mr Tom (2011), makes his Festival debut.

 Alan Strachan directed Entertaining Angels (2006) and Mrs Pat (2015) with Penelope Keith at Chichester; his many West End productions range from plays by Coward and Ayckbourn to Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare.

 The Chalk Garden will be designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by Natasha Chivers, music by Catherine Jayes and sound by Emma Laxton.

THE COUNTRY WIFE by William Wycherley

Directed by Jonathan Munby

8 June – 7 July, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Wednesday 13 June

The City of London. The randy seventeenth century. Harry Horner wants to seduce as many women as possible, but he needs to convince their husbands that he’s physically incapable of any such thing. Cannily, his faux impotence also allows him to sniff out and unmask those respectably virtuous ladies who secretly ache for him.

But this virile villain hasn’t reckoned with Mr. Pinchwife’s sexy young spouse, Margery, fresh from the rather too plain-speaking countryside.

Widely regarded as one of the filthiest and funniest plays ever written, William Wycherley’s The Country Wife has outraged and excited audiences for over 300 years (though not during the many years it was banned from both stage and print) and today still casts a provocative light on sexual mores.

 Jonathan Munby returns to Chichester following his huge success with King Lear (Festival 2017, West End 2018) and First Light (Festival 2016). Recent work also includes his new production of Bryony Lavery’s Frozen in the West End.

 Susannah Fielding makes her Chichester debut as Margery Pinchwife; her theatre work includes The Beaux’ Stratagem (National Theatre) and Portia in The Merchant of Venice (RSC/Almeida).

 The Country Wife will be designed by Soutra Gilmour, with lighting by Richard Howell, music by Grant Olding and sound by Emma Laxton.



Book & Lyrics by L Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber

Book revised by Stephen Fry with contributions by Mike Ockrent

Music by Noel Gay

Directed by Daniel Evans

2 July – 25 August, Festival Theatre

Press night: Monday 9 July

At Hareford Hall in Hampshire, suspense is in the air. The family solicitor has found the long-lost heir to the Hareford title and riches. But, to everyone’s horror, he’s a Cockney barrow boy called Bill Snibson.

As the Duchess determinedly sets out to transform him into a true gentleman, Bill’s sweetheart Sally wonders how she fits in to his new life. Before too long, Bill has to answer some soul-searching questions about who he really is.

This uproarious, much-loved musical comedy includes the enormously popular numbers The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Lambeth Walk and of course Me and My Girl. The revised version by Stephen Fry and Michael Ockrent, also featuring Leaning on a Lamppost, won the 1985 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical.

This new staging is directed by Daniel Evans with designs by Lez Brotherston and choreography by Alistair David, the outstanding team behind Festival 2017’s hit musical Fiddler on the Roof.

 Caroline Quentin makes her Chichester debut as the Duchess of Dene. One of television’s most popular actors from series such as Men Behaving Badly, Jonathan Creek and Dickensian, her recent stage work includes The Hypocrite (RSC) and Relatives Values (West End).

The musical supervisor and musical director will be Gareth Valentine, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Carolyn Downing.

There will be a Relaxed performance of Me and My Girl on 25 July at 2.30pm, especially suitable for individuals, groups and families with children on the autistic spectrum, sensory and communication disorders or anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed theatre environment.



A new play by Charlotte Jones

Directed by Natalie Abrahami

13 July – 11 August, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Thursday 19 July

Rachel has been the voice for her deaf mother since she was born but now she is restless to be heard for herself. Together, they have found sanctuary in a Quaker community that reveres silence. But the world is at war and it is becoming ever harder to live in Friendship. When a stranger arrives in their midst, their fragile peace is set to shatter.

This powerful new play from the acclaimed writer Charlotte Jones is a spellbinding exploration of the timeless challenges of bringing the truth to light.

Charlotte Jones’s multi award-winning play Humble Boy transferred to the West End and Broadway following a sell-out run at the National Theatre. Her other work includes The Lightning Play at the Almeida Theatre, The Dark at the Donmar Warehouse and Martha, Josie & The Chinese Elvis (UK tour).

Director Natalie Abrahami makes her Chichester debut; her recent productions include Queen Anne (RSC/West End) and Happy Days (Young Vic). She was Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill from 2007 – 2012, and Associate Director of the Young Vic.

The Meeting will be designed by Vicki Mortimer, with lighting by Paule Constable and Marc Williams, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, and movement by Mark Smith.

COPENHAGEN by Michael Frayn

Directed by Michael Blakemore

17 August – 22 September, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Wednesday 22 August

In 1941, in the middle of the Second World War, the great German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a strange trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish colleague Niels Bohr. They were old friends and collaborators, and together in the 1920s they had begun to lay bare the mysteries at the heart of the atom. But now Denmark was under German occupation, the meeting was fraught with danger and embarrassment – and Heisenberg was burdened with a terrible secret.

Why he went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions which have exercised historians ever since. In Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning drama Heisenberg meets Bohr and his wife Margrethe once again to look for the answers, and to work out, just as they had once worked out the internal functioning of the atom, how we can ever know why we do what we do.

Michael Frayn is one of this country’s finest writers. Copenhagen premiered at the National Theatre in 1998, going on to the West End and Broadway and winning over 10 major international awards.

 Michael Blakemore’s many collaborations with Michael Frayn include Democracy at the National Theatre and the original production of Copenhagen for which he won a Tony Award to add to his 15 Evening Standard or Olivier Awards for other London work.

 Charles Edwards returns to Chichester to play Heisenberg. His work ranges from Downton Abbey on television to the original cast of This House and the forthcoming Absolute Hell (National Theatre). Paul Jesson makes his Chichester debut as Bohr. His screen work includes Mr Turner and Spooks, while extensive theatre includes Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies (RSC).

This 20th anniversary production of Copenhagen will be designed by Peter J Davison, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Carolyn Downing and video by Nina Dunn.



Based on the novel by Paul Gallico

Book by Rachel Wagstaff  Music & lyrics by Richard Taylor

Directed by Daniel Evans

8 – 29 September, Festival Theatre

Press night: Friday 14 September

 Ada Harris spends her days dusting, darning, polishing and scrubbing. But her first glimpse of a ravishing Christian Dior dress sets her off on a journey that will change her life forever…

From the cobbled streets of post-war London to the shimmering avenues of Paris, Ada transforms the lives of everyone she meets along the way; but can she let go of the past and finally allow her own life to blossom?

This new musical, directed by Daniel Evans, captures the glowing humanity of the novella by Paul Gallico on which it is based. The production began in Sheffield, where it won three UK Theatre Awards including Best Musical.

 Rachel Wagstaff adapted Sebastian Faulks’s novel Birdsong for the West End. Richard Taylor is a composer and lyricist for stage, opera and television, whose work includes Beauty and the Beast (CFYT 2017) and The Go-Between (West End).

 Clare Burt recreates her award-winning performance as Mrs Harris; her extensive musical theatre work includes London Road and Sunday in the Park with George (National Theatre) and Big Fish (West End).

 Joanna Riding returns to Chichester following The Pajama Game (Festival 2013 and West End), while Gary Wilmot makes a welcome Festival debut.

 Flowers for Mrs Harris is designed by Lez Brotherston; the musical director is Tom Brady; with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Mike Walker and movement by Naomi Said.


COCK by Mike Bartlett

Directed by Kate Hewitt

28 September – 27 October, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Thursday 4 October

Has John straightened out? After years glued to his boyfriend, the couple have been through a sticky patch, and now John’s attached to someone else. Someone who is different in every single way. But can John give her what she wants, when he’s never been with a woman before?

Funny and eye-openingly fresh and frank, Cock is a provocative peep into relationships in these days of oscillating identities. It tussles with knotty twenty-first century questions: can we – and should we be allowed to – change if we want to?

 Mike Bartlett is one of this generation’s leading writers for stage and screen. His award-winning work includes King Charles III (Almeida, West End and BBC) and the hit television series Doctor Foster. The Olivier Award-winning Cock premiered at the Royal Court and off-Broadway in 2009.

 Kate Hewitt directs. Winner of the JMK Young Director Award and the inaugural RTST Director Award 2016, she was recently named as one of Variety’s ‘10 Brits to Watch in 2017’. Her credits include Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon at Sheffield and Caryl Churchill’s Far Away at the Young Vic.

Contains very strong language and scenes of a sexual nature. Age guideline 16+

 Cock will be designed by Georgia Lowe, with lighting by Guy Hoare and sound by Giles Thomas.


THE MIDNIGHT GANG by David Walliams

Adapted by Byrony Lavery

Music & Lyrics by Joe Stilgoe

Directed by Dale Rooks

13 October – 3 November, Festival Theatre

Press night: Monday 22 October

A bang on the head during a cricket match at his boarding school has landed twelve-year-old Tom in the children’s ward of the spooky Lord Funt Hospital.

Luckily, he’s not on his own with the child-hating Matron and the scary-looking Porter. George, Amber, Robin and Sally are in there too, and they’re not taking things lying down. When the lights go out and the clock strikes twelve, they’re off. But will they let new boy Tom join their forbidden midnight adventures through the hospital’s labyrinthine realm?

This inventive tale of fun, friendship and the importance of kindness is adapted from David Walliams’s biggest-selling children’s book of 2016.

This new stage version is by Bryony Lavery, whose adaptations include Chichester’s hit family shows The Hundred and One Dalmatians (2014) and A Christmas Carol (2015), with music and lyrics by renowned musician and composer Joe Stilgoe (The Jungle Book, 2017).

Director Dale Rooks’s production of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild (Festival 2015) won the UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People; she later co-directed the play for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and a UK tour. Her most recent production at Chichester was Beauty and the Beast.

Suitable for ages 7+.

 The Midnight Gang will be designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by James Whiteside, sound by Gregory Clarke and movement by Georgina Lamb.



A new play by Laura Wade

Adapted from the unfinished novel by Jane Austen

Directed by Samuel West

3 November – 1 December, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Thursday 8 November

What happens when the writer loses the plot?

Emma Watson is nineteen and new in town. She’s been cut off by her rich aunt and dumped back in the family home. Emma and her sisters must marry, fast. If not, they face poverty, spinsterhood, or worse: an eternity with their boorish brother and his awful wife. Luckily there are plenty of potential suitors to dance with, from flirtatious Tom Musgrave to castle-owning Lord Osborne, who’s as awkward as he is rich.

So far so familiar. But there’s a problem: Jane Austen didn’t finish the story. Who will write Emma’s happy ending now?

Based on her incomplete novel, this sparklingly witty play looks under the bonnet of Jane Austen and asks: what can characters do when their author abandons them?

 Laura Wade’s hit play Posh transferred to the West End from the Royal Court, and then onto the big screen as The Riot Club. Recent work includes the adaptation of Tipping the Velvet (Lyric Hammersmith and Edinburgh); her play Home I’m Darling premieres at Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre in 2018.

 Samuel West returns to Chichester, where he has appeared in Young Chekhov and ENRON, and directed Three Women and A Piano Tuner (2004). He was Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres 2005-07, where he revived The Romans in Britain.

 The Watsons will be designed by Ben Stones, with lighting by Johanna Town, music by Isobel Waller-Bridge and sound by Gregory Clarke.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present


From The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods by Charles Perrault

15 – 30 December, Festival Theatre

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.

Creative team to be announced. Suitable for ages 7+.

There will be a Relaxed performance of Sleeping Beauty on 30 December at 2pm.


Talks, tours, performances and hands-on activities for all ages will offer additional insights into Festival 2018. Highlights include talks with Penelope Keith, Michael Frayn, Patricia Routledge and Mike Bartlett; a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary; music from Joe Stilgoe and Late Night Cabarets with the Me and My Girl company; and debates and discussion on subjects including Noël Coward, contemporary gender on stage and unfinished manuscripts.

Free events inspired by the productions include a British Sign Language masterclass; Doing the Lambeth Walk; and a songwriting workshop with Richard Taylor. In October, the Festival Theatre will again take part in Fun Palaces, the nationwide celebration of arts and culture in the community.

Events for 16 to 25 year olds include a Prologue Cabaret. CFT’s Learning, Education and Participation (LEAP) team lead an Apprentice Arts Network day as well as workshops for families and schools.


Three Festival 2017 productions will be running in London this year. Michael Longhurst’s production of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Caroline, Or Change transfers to Hampstead Theatre from 12 March – 21 April, with Sharon D Clarke; James Graham’s new play Quiz, directed by Daniel Evans, runs at the West End’s Noël Coward Theatre from 31 March – 16 June; and Ian McKellen reprises his acclaimed King Lear in Jonathan Munby’s production at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 11 July – 3 November. In addition, James Graham’s This House (Festival 2016) tours the UK until 2 June.