Chichester Festival Theatre pledges perpetual readiness for lockdown lifting

Perpetual readiness is Chichester Festival Theatre’s aim – despite the most challenging of conditions as lockdown 2 begins to bite.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 8:00 am
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key

CFT artistic director Daniel Evans is open about the fact that planning is all but impossible at the moment; things can change so quickly – and there is certainly no guarantee that lockdown will end when it is supposed to end.

“My gut feeling is that it is unlikely to be just four weeks. But without wanting to get political, the anger on the Tory backbenches might mean that they are forced not to go any further. But what it means for us is that we need to be in a state of having everything ready to leap into action on December 2 if we are permitted.

“But yes, there are certainly moments that drag you down, and we have moments of delirium because we can’t believe that 2020 is still throwing this at us. But I do feel really, really lucky that the team at Chichester Festival Theatre is just amazing, ready to pull anything out of the bag at a moment’s notice, just always ready to leap into action. They are so wonderfully agile.”

There is a great camaraderie – and the great thing is that the camaraderie most certainly includes the audience: “The audience are right with us. They are telling us how sorry they are. There is definitely a sense that we are all in this together.”

But there is no disguising the fact that the autumn lockdown cancellations will be tough financially: “We are going to be losing a shedload of money. We are going to be either refunding people or asking them to stay with us while we try to rearrange, and that’s where it is crippling.”

It’s impossible to give a figure: “We are still thinking about which events we can still have and do as a live-stream. If you can film something without an audience, that is permitted, and we are still talking to artists to see what we can do. It is almost like we are turning ourselves into TV studios at the moment!”

What is certain is that the CFT can withstand the loss… for the moment: “We are so fortunate that our resources have been strong, but of course, we can’t go on like this forever because our resources are being depleted. But we have been buoyed up by so many people donating and supporting us, so we do feel like we are pretty resilient. But I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that we can’t continue like this for too long or we will start to get into the danger zone.”

Adding to the immensity of the challenge is the fact that Daniel now needs to be – and is – deep into the planning for the 2021 summer season, without having the remotest idea what might or might not be possible for when the time comes.

“We are quite advanced with it. We have to be. But we have to have a budget in place for social distancing still to be in place. If things open up, then great, we can open it up and sell more seats.

“But we know we have to plan for social distancing for the first half of next year at least, and that means that our income is halved, and that then impacts on the type of work that we can do and on the length of the runs that we can have.

“We are also at the moment seeing how many seats we can have in the Minerva. We are determined we are not going to let the Minerva languish.”

In the meantime, rehearsals are now under way for Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s December production of Pinnochio.