Chichester Festival Theatre confirm summer start date and opening show

Chichester Festival Theatre is to reopen its doors this summer with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, with performances running from July 5-September 4.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 7:06 am
South Pacific
South Pacific

The show was to have been the delayed season-opener in 2020 when it looked as if a mid-summer start to the season might have been possible. Sadly, it wasn’t – but the CFT have remained wholeheartedly committed to the project, and hopes are high that finally, the show can and will go on this year.

Before then, a film of Sarah Kane’s Crave, created from Tinuke Craig’s acclaimed production, will be available to watch on demand in May.

CFT is also planning a weekend of open-air concerts and family events in Oaklands Park in early June.

The announcements come from CFT artistic director Daniel Evans and executive director Kathy Bourne who have steered the venue through the pandemic and kept spirits up.

Kathy said: “Seldom can a summer have been as eagerly anticipated as this one. We are so proud and thankful to be able to say: we are re-opening, we will be producing work on our stages and digitally, and we will continue to serve our community of audiences and theatre-makers. We know that Chichester’s summer musical is a highlight of the year for people locally, regionally and nationally. South Pacific should have been the centrepiece of Festival 2020; we couldn’t be more thrilled that it will finally open this July, with a superb cast and creative team who’ve waited a year to bring it to fruition.”

Daniel added: “We’re also delighted to offer a specially made film of our autumn highlight, Sarah Kane’s Crave – giving audiences around the globe a second chance to see Tinuke Craig’s revelatory production.

“While South Pacific will initially be booking with a reduced capacity auditorium and a dedicated socially distanced performance every week, our hope is that, later in 2021, we will see the return of non-socially distanced audiences with a renewed confidence and appetite for live performance. We’ll announce further productions for Festival 2021 later this spring.”

Currently, Step 4 of the government’s roadmap anticipates the removal of all legal limits on social contact and the reopening of full theatre auditoriums from June 21, subject to successful pilot test events taking place in April and May.

Accordingly, South Pacific will go on sale with a reduced capacity auditorium (approximately 900, as opposed to 1,300) in order to ease congestion in the foyers and public spaces, with a view to moving to full capacity as soon as government guidelines permit. Enhanced cleaning, hand sanitising and the wearing of face coverings at all times in the theatre will be in place. In addition, there will be one specially designated socially distanced performance every week – complete with the Covid-safety measures introduced last autumn, including timed arrivals and temperature checks – for those audience members who would prefer to remain socially distanced for the foreseeable future.

The choice of production is significant. Daniel sees it as a show which will make a big statement – a big musical with a big cast (27 plus 15 in the band). For the CFT, it is about saying “this is what we do,” But it is also, Daniel believes, a show which will give give people comfort, he says, with its theme of the need to be together.

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Coming up at the CFT:

Crave by Sarah Kane: streaming worldwide: opening night May 18 at 7.30pm, on demand from May 19-29.

The CFT are offering audiences the chance to experience at home a specially made film of the production that defied lockdown last autumn.

The production opened to live audiences, but when lockdown fell during the run, Crave was live streamed to thousands in 50 countries around the globe as the cast of four performed in an empty auditorium.

This film is a new edit of the live stream, with remastered sound and incorporating new footage from filmmaker Ravi Deepres.

In a damaged world, four characters search for the light. This heart-rending, funny, kind and cruel meditation on the meaning of love resonated with audiences looking to reconnect after the loneliness and seclusion inflicted by a global pandemic.

The opening night performance will be followed by a live post-show talk with members of the company.

Erin Doherty, Alfred Enoch, Wendy Kweh and Jonathan Slinger are the cast in Tinuke Craig’s production, which is designed by Alex Lowde, with lighting by Joshua Pharo, composition and sound by Anna Clock, film by Ravi Deepres, movement by Jenny Ogilvie and casting by Charlotte Sutton. Filmed by The Umbrella Rooms.

Contains strong language; suitable for ages 16+.

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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific by James A Michener; July 5-September 4 2021, live in the Festival Theatre.

Daniel Evans directs a cast led by Gina Beck (Nellie Forbush), Julian Ovenden (Emile de Becque) Joanna Ampil (Bloody Mary), Keir Charles (Luther Billis) and Rob Houchen (Joe Cable), which also includes Iroy Abesamis, Carl Au, Rosanna Bates, David Birrell, Taylor Bradshaw, Bobbie Chambers, Danny Collins, Shailan Gohil, Adrian Grove, Zack Guest, Matthew Madison, Sera Maehara (as Liat), Melissa Nettleford, Kate Playdon, Pierce Rogan and Clancy Ryan.

The much-loved, Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical opened in 1949 to huge success, becoming one of Broadway’s longest running hit shows. It boasts one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most memorable scores, featuring songs such as Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and Bali Ha’i.

1943. On an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, US troops are kicking their heels amid the cacao groves while restlessly waiting for the war to reach them.

Nellie Forbush, a navy nurse from Arkansas, finds herself falling for the French plantation owner, Emile de Becque – a man with a mysterious past.

The scheming sailor Luther Billis runs a makeshift laundry to earn a quick buck, but he’s no match for the Polynesian Bloody Mary who’s intent on exploiting these foreigners.

When young Princeton graduate Lieutenant Joe Cable is flown in on a dangerous reconnaissance mission, love and fear become entwined as the island’s battle for hearts and minds begins.

One performance of South Pacific each week will be socially distanced.

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Priority online booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens: Thursday, April 1 from 12 noon. General online booking opens: Tuesday, April 6 from 10am; cft.org.uk; 01243 781312.

Tickets for South Pacific from £10; tickets for Crave from £15. Prologue: £5 tickets for 16-30s; £5 tickets are available for 16 to 30 year-olds for; sign up for free at cft.org.uk/prologue.