Chichester Festival Theatre summer season - in detail


Thursday, 13th February 2020, 7:58 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 8:41 am
CFT 2020: THE LIFE OF GALILEO: Henry Goodman

Henry Goodman in THE LIFE OF GALILEO by Bertolt Brecht

Translated by David Edgar

Directed by Jonathan Church

24 April – 16 May, Festival Theatre

1609. Galileo Galilei is a teacher of mathematics at the University of Padua. The establishment orthodoxy – which he’s been teaching to private pupils for years – is that the sun revolves round the earth, which is the centre of the universe. The theory confirms the scriptures and pays the bills.

Now, with the help of a newly-invented telescope, Galileo is starting to look at the universe afresh. And the more he looks, the more he sees, including mountains on the moon and strange stars around Jupiter. His discoveries not only support the heretical idea that the earth moves round the sun, they give rise to urgent new questions too. What if the earth is just another star? And if the church is wrong about the heavens, might it be wrong about how things are here on earth?

Brilliant minds have been burnt alive for asking such questions. Because though this is the age of science and discovery, it is also the age of the Inquisition.

Bertolt Brecht revised his epic play about the battle between scientific reason, the power of religion, and human responsibility in response to the apocalyptic events of the middle of the twentieth century. David Edgar’s adaptations also include Nicholas Nickleby and The Master Builder, both seen at CFT.

Making welcome returns to Chichester are Director Jonathan Church, who was Artistic Director 2006–16; and Henry Goodman who plays the title role, following his appearances in Yes, Prime Minister (2010) and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (2012/13).

The Life of Galileo will be designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Matthew Scott, sound by Paul Groothuis, video by Dick Straker, movement by Jenny Arnold, casting by Juliet Horsley and children’s casting by Verity Naughton.


Richard Coyle and Lisa Dillon in THE REAL THING by Tom Stoppard

Directed by Simon Evans

7 May – 6 June, Minerva Theatre

Henry is a brilliantly clever playwright with a masterful grasp of language and a lot on his mind. His choices for Desert Island Discs, for a start.

His actress wife, Charlotte, is appearing in his latest play alongside their friend Max, who’s also married to an actress called Annie. Charlotte’s not convinced the part does her justice and she’s not afraid of saying so. Annie, meanwhile, is campaigning to free Brodie, a soldier who’s recently been jailed for setting fire to a wreath on the cenotaph. And Brodie isn’t Annie’s only interest…

In Henry’s world everyone is seduced by somebody or something. For some of the time at least. But are these passions more than surface deep? Are they the real thing?

An hilarious and heartfelt exploration of love and fidelity, The Real Thing is considered one of Tom Stoppard’s finest plays. His other award-winning works include modern classics Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Arcadia.

Richard Coyle makes his Chichester debut as Henry. He recently starred in James Graham’s Ink (Almeida/West End), while his screen credits include Coupling, Covert Affairs and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Lisa Dillon returns to play Annie, following her roles as Beatrice and Rosaline in Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost (2016); her recent theatre includes Blithe Spirit (West End).

Director Simon Evans’s theatre credits include A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (West End), and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and The Silence of the Sea (Donmar Warehouse).

The Real Thing will be designed by Grace Smart, with music and sound by Alex Baranowski and casting by Juliet Horsley.



Adapted from the novel by Muriel Spark

Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh

29 May – 20 June, Festival Theatre

1931. Edinburgh. Schoolmistress Jean Brodie prizes beauty, truth and art above the curriculum, reaching beyond the classroom to find lessons in galleries, theatres and the opera. For her favoured set of girls – Sandy, Jenny, Monica and Mary – she is a fascinating enigma.

And it’s not only twelve-year-olds who are drawn to the provocative Miss Brodie. There’s Gordon Lowther, the diffident music teacher, whom she visits every Sunday, and the raffish married art teacher, Teddy Lloyd.

But not everyone is an admirer. Brodie’s unconventional style challenges the established order at Marcia Blaine School, and a headmistress who doesn’t wish lessons to be taught in the open air and minds to be recklessly expanded.

As the girls grow up and innocence gives way to experience, trust turns to doubt about their teacher. Soon, being a woman and an iconoclast, in a turbulent political age, becomes downright dangerous.

Jay Presson Allen’s bold, searching and funny play, written in 1966, was adapted from the 1961 novel by Muriel Spark. A hit both in London and on Broadway, it successfully transferred to the screen in 1969.

This new production is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, whose many Chichester productions include Shadowlands (2019), The Winslow Boy (2018) and Half A Sixpence (2016).

It will be designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Howard Harrison, music by Catherine Jayes, sound by Fergus O’Hare, movement by Georgina Lamb and casting by Charlotte Sutton.


THE VILLAGE BIKE by Penelope Skinner

Directed by Nicole Charles

12 June – 4 July, Minerva Theatre

Becky and John have moved to a rural idyll. Their renovation is only half finished and the dodgy internal pipe-work is banging, but John loves the organic butchers and the fresh air.

His wife is less sure. Her body is changing. She’s frustrated. She has needs: startling and urgent longings and desires, which are not being satisfied by her husband, or her nosy neighbour, or the glorious countryside.

Thank goodness the local men-folk are friendly. Mike is a reliable plumber, and Oliver is the leading man of the local amateur players. He’s currently on stage in tight breeches as highwayman Dick Turpin. Both men are more than willing to help Becky settle in.

Oliver even has an old bike for sale. One he’s keen to give to restless Becky, and one she’s desperate to take for a ride. Soon the cottage plumbing is not the only thing causing disturbance deep in the English countryside.

The Village Bike spins the wheels off the old conventions around human desire. Hilarious and original, it explores impending motherhood and the need for liberation from social and gender conventions. Written by Penelope Skinner, it was a smash hit when it opened in London in 2011, winning George Devine and Evening Standard Awards.

Nicole Charles returns to Chichester to direct, following her five-star production of Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads (2019); her other credits include Emilia (West End).

Please note this play contains very strong language and scenes of a sexual nature. Recommended for ages 16+.

The Village Bike will be designed by Madeleine Girling, with lighting by Prema Mehta, sound by George Dennis and casting by Charlotte Sutton.


Gina Beck, Julian Ovenden and Rob Houchen in 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

Directed by Daniel Evans

6 July – 29 August, Festival Theatre

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.

This 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.

This new production is directed by Artistic Director Daniel Evans whose previous Chichester productions include This Is My Family, Quiz and Fiddler on the Roof.

Making their Chichester debuts are Gina Beck (Matilda, Show Boat, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera) as Nellie, Julian Ovenden (Merrily We Roll Along, Grand Hotel, BBC Proms, Downton Abbey) as Emile, and Rob Houchen (Les Misérables, The Light in the Piazza) as Cable.

The set and costume designer is Peter McKintosh, and the choreographer and movement director, Ann Yee. Musical supervision is by Tom Murray, musical direction by Cat Beveridge, orchestrations by David Cullen, lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Paul Groothuis and casting by Charlotte Sutton.

There will be a Dementia Friendly performance of South Pacific on 19 August at 2.30pm, welcoming individuals living with dementia, as well as their friends, families and carers.


Amanda Abbington, Frances Barber and Reece Shearsmith in THE UNFRIEND

A new play by Steven Moffat

Directed by Mark Gatiss

17 July – 22 August, Minerva Theatre

After twenty years of marriage, Peter and Debbie are enjoying a cruise as a break from their annoying teenagers. Peter can’t resist exchanging views on Donald Trump with an American fellow passenger. There’s something slightly unsettling about the eagerly friendly Elsa Jean Krakowski – but there’s no point in rocking the boat when you’re about to get off it.

Back home, an email arrives from Elsa, followed by Elsa herself. And when Debbie googles their house guest and turns up some hair-raising evidence, their good nature is challenged as never before. What kind of danger have they allowed to take up residence in their spare room? And can they bring themselves to say anything about it? Sometimes, the truth is just too impolite.

The Unfriend takes a hugely entertaining and satirical look at middle-class England’s disastrous instinct always to appear nice. Manners can be murder.

Steven Moffat is an award-winning writer, whose hit television series include Doctor Who, Sherlock and Dracula – the latter two co-written with the actor and writer Mark Gatiss, who makes his directorial debut.

Gatiss is also a member of the sketch comedy team The League of Gentlemen alongside Reece Shearsmith, who plays Peter. Last seen at Chichester in The Dresser, Reece’s recent work also includes Hangmen (Royal Court) and TV’s Inside No 9.

Amanda Abbington, whose credits include TV’s Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, and The Son in the West End, makes her Chichester debut as Debbie.

Frances Barber, last seen here in Uncle Vanya (1996) returns as Elsa; her extensive screen work includes Silk and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

The Unfriend will be designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Mark Henderson and casting by Charlotte Sutton.


Cherrelle Skeete in THE LONG SONG

A new adaptation by Suhayla El-Bushra

Based on the novel by Andrea Levy

Directed by Charlotte Gwinner

28 August – 26 September, Minerva Theatre

Press night: Thursday 3 September

‘You do not know me yet but I am the heroine of this drama. I am told that here I must give a taste of what is to unfold. I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent days of slavery and the early years of freedom.

‘I was born a slave upon a sugar plantation named Amity. I was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and when slavery was declared no more. It tells of my mama Kitty, of the negroes enslaved, of Caroline Mortimer the woman who owned me. I am to say that it is a true and thrilling journey through that unsettled time.

‘Cha, I say, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just see it for themselves.’

Miss July is born into slavery in Jamaica and is brutally parted from both her mother, and her name. But what she retains is resilience, charisma and a subversive, spirited wit. This ebullient and life-affirming play finds humanity, resistance and hope in the darkest of times.

The Long Song is adapted from Andrea Levy’s award-winning novel by Suhayla El-Bushra, formerly writer in residence at the National Theatre Studio and whose work includes The Suicide (NT), Arabian Nights (Lyceum, Edinburgh), and Channel 4’s Hollyoaks and Ackley Bridge.

Cherrelle Skeete plays July; her theatre credits include Fun Home (Young Vic), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (West End) and Three Days in the Country (National Theatre), while screen work includes the forthcoming Hanna series 2.

Director Charlotte Gwinner was Associate Director at the Bush Theatre, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Sheffield Theatres 2014-16, where her productions included Waiting for Godot, the Sarah Kane season and The Distance.

The production will be designed by Alex Lowde, with lighting by Mark Doubleday, musical direction, vocal arrangements and additional composition by Michael Henry, sound by Helen Skiera, video by Dick Straker, movement by Rachael Nanyonjo and casting by Charlotte Sutton with Chandra Ruegg.



Adapted for the stage by Kate Mosse

A new play based on her novel

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Playing in repertoire, 12 September – 30 October, Festival Theatre

1912. In the isolated Blackthorn House on Sussex’s Fishbourne Marshes, Connie Gifford lives with her father. His Museum of Avian Taxidermy was once legendary, but since its closure Gifford has become a broken man, taking refuge in the bottle.

Robbed of her childhood memories by a mysterious accident, Connie is haunted by fitful glimpses of her past. A strange woman has been seen in the graveyard; and at Chichester’s Graylingwell Asylum, two female patients have, inexplicably, disappeared.

As a major storm hits the Sussex landscape, old wounds are about to be opened as one woman, intent on revenge, attempts to liberate another from the horrifying crimes of the past.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a thrilling Gothic mystery set in and around historic Chichester. This world premiere is written by Cicestrian Kate Mosse, based on her best-selling novel.

Kate Mosse’s novels include The Languedoc Trilogy (Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel) and her new historical series, The Burning Chambers. She is Founder Director of the Women's Prize for Fiction and Professor in Contemporary Fiction & Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.

Award-winning director Jonathan Munby returns to Chichester where his work includes King Lear with Ian McKellen (2017, also West End) and First Light (2016). His credits elsewhere include Frozen (West End) and Wendy and Peter Pan (RSC).

The Taxidermist’s Daughter will be designed by Jon Bausor, with lighting by Peter Mumford, sound by Christopher Shutt, movement by Charlotte Broom, fight direction by Kate Waters and casting by Juliet Horsley.



Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by John Weidman

Directed by Polly Findlay

Playing in repertoire, 29 September – 31 October, Festival Theatre

Press night: Monday 5 October

A surreal fairground attraction, where a motley crew of visitors gather to try their luck at winning prizes. They have one thing in common: the American dream has twisted their lives into an American nightmare. Each of them will take aim at the highest seat of power in the land.

Some succeed, some fail. But there’s a prize for them all: a place in the history books.

John Wilkes Booth. Lee Harvey Oswald. Leon Czolgosz. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. John Hinckley. Charles Guiteau. Sara Jane Moore. Giuseppe Zangara. Samuel Byck. Men and women whose fervour took them to the very edge.

Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Tony Award-winning musical takes us on a daring, darkly comic, time-bending journey through American history.

This new production marks Sondheim’s 90th birthday year. A giant of contemporary musical theatre, celebrated for the inventive sophistication of his melodies and lyrics, his landmark works also include Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd, produced at Chichester in 2011. John Weidman’s Tony-award winning works include Contact as well two further collaborations with Sondheim, Road Show and Pacific Overtures.

Director Polly Findlay makes her CFT debut. Her recent productions include A Number (Bridge Theatre), Rutherford and Son, Beginning (NT and West End) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Donmar Warehouse).

The designer will be Lizzie Clachan, with casting by Charlotte Sutton.



A new play by Christopher Shinn

Directed by Ola Ince

2 – 24 October, Minerva Theatre

Everyone needs Jim.

His mother. His best friend. His brother. His new lover. A hopeful future President.

But can Jim really help anyone, when he isn’t sure who he is any more, or what he actually believes? An expert in electoral strategy, he’s forged a successful career by advising politicians how to communicate with voters. But following a seismic shift in the political landscape, he’s disillusioned. And his marriage is in crisis. As he juggles the demands on his life through his smartphone, will the lure of success and fame prove irresistible?

The Narcissist is a gripping, inventive and witty take on personal and political communication in the internet age.

Christopher Shinn is a celebrated American playwright whose work has been produced to huge acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. His first play, Four, premiered at the Royal Court in 1998 and, in 2008, his play Dying City was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Ola Ince directs. Winner of the 2016 Genesis Future Director Award, and currently Artistic Associate at the Royal Court, her credits include Appropriate (Donmar Warehouse) and The Convert (Young Vic).

Please note the play contains strong language; recommended for ages 14+.

The Narcissist was initially commissioned by Fictionhouse. The casting director is Amy Ball.


CRAVE by Sarah Kane

Directed by Tinuke Craig

16 – 31 October, The Spiegeltent

In the darkness of a damaged world, four characters search for the light.

Angry, funny, defiant, kind and cruel, Crave is a deeply personal meditation on the meaning of love. It pulses with loss and longing.

Sarah Kane is considered to be one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century. She came to prominence in 1995 with her seminal first play, Blasted. Over her short career she wrote five plays and a film. Crave premiered in August 1998 at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. Today, her plays are performed around the world.

Crave will be staged in the Spiegeltent, which returns to Chichester following the success of 2019’s Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads. It will be directed by Tinuke Craig, whose production of random/generations was a highlight of Festival 2018; since then, her work includes The Color Purple (Curve Leicester), Vassa (Almeida) and the forthcoming Jitney (Headlong/Leeds Playhouse).

Crave contains strong language; recommended for ages 16+.

It will be designed by Alex Lowde, with sound by Anna Clock and casting by Charlotte Sutton.


Chichester Festival Youth Theatre


by Anna Ledwich

From the original novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Directed by Dale Rooks

12 – 31 December, Festival Theatre

Geppetto the boatmaker tosses aside a piece of wood; it’s only good for the fire. To his amazement, a voice answers him back. Geppetto picks up the wood and begins to carve – and a small wooden boy is revealed. A puppet, which he names Pinocchio.

And that’s when the mayhem begins. Pinocchio can’t stop getting into trouble, despite the best efforts of the Blue Fairy and the Cricket to keep him on track. His intentions may be good – he truly wants to go to school like real boys and girls – but the temptation to discover the wonders of the world and make his fortune keep getting in the way.

Pinocchio encounters a host of fascinating characters, from Punch and Judy to the wily Fox and Cat and the strange Sea Monster, as he journeys to Wonderland and the world beneath the sea. But he discovers that it isn’t easy hiding the truth – especially when your nose gets longer with every lie you tell…

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre presents a brand new version of this classic tale, written especially for them by CFT’s Writer-in-Residence Anna Ledwich. Her previous work at Chichester includes The Butterfly Lion (2019), Crossing Lines (2019) and Beauty and the Beast (2018).

Director Dale Rooks, whose work at Chichester includes The Butterfly Lion, The Midnight Gang and Running Wild, will bring her trademark visual flair and gift for storytelling to this darkly magical reinvention.

The set will be designed by Simon Higlett, with costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight, lighting by James Whiteside, music by Tom Brady, sound by Gregory Clarke and movement by Lauren Grant.

Recommended for ages 7+. There will be a Relaxed performance of Pinocchio on 28 December at 4pm.


Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens: Saturday, February 22 (online and booking forms only); Wednesday, February 26 (phone and in person)

Booking for groups and schools opens: Thursday, February 27

General booking opens: Saturday, February 29 (online only); Tuesday, March 3 (phone and in person) Box office 01243 781312. Tickets from £10.