Pop-up theatre at this year's Festival of Chichester

The company - photo by Rosey Purchase
The company - photo by Rosey Purchase

Chichester Community Theatre’s free pop-up theatre performances will be returning as part of the Festival of Chichester 2019.

They will be offering A Witty Tribute to N F Simpson, directed by Roger Redfarn and produced by Kathy Sykes.

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of ‘comic genius’ Norman Frederick Simpson, Roger Redfarn has selected three of his short plays – Gladly Otherwise, Oh and One Blast and Have Done.

Roger said: “N F Simpson has been rather forgotten, but he helped spawn a generation of incredible comic talent and influenced the writing of Monty Python and Peter Cook amongst many others. I thought we should celebrate his centenary by performing a selection of his short works to showcase his talent, which is a comic brew from Lewis Carroll, W S Gilbert and The Goons.

“He was one of the leading exponents of the Theatre of the Absurd and was a major force in the satire boom of the 60s. He wrote exceptional comedy for film and TV for the likes of John Cleese, Beryl Reed and Eric Sykes, as well as brilliantly funny plays for the theatre, many performed in the West End and at the Royal Court.”

Sadly, though, he is out of fashion: “People don’t do Galsworthy or Shaw now, and he was just very much of his time, but in his time he was a trailblazer. He wrote a lot for revues, but he only wrote two successful full-length plays. Everything else was short snippets, the sort of stuff that would go into revues, and I think that is possibly one of the reasons he is not more remembered now.”

But the great joys are there – particularly the dialogue, particularly the situations he creates: “I just love the mad aspect of it all, and as it is his 100th anniversary, I thought we should be doing something, so we are doing these three short plays.

“I did meet him. I can’t really say that I knew him, but I did occasionally meet him when he was hanging out with the Royal Court lot. It would always be in company. We would go to the pub next door to the Royal Court. He remember him as a bit of a loner and a one-off. He actually gave it all up quite early in his life. He went down to Cornwall and gave all the theatre up. I don’t really know why. I think his last radio play was about 78 and his last TV play would have been about the same time.”

When Roger announced he was doing the plays, he was inevitably met with a mix of reactions.

“Some people would say ‘Oh yes, I remember him’ and some people would say ‘No, I have never heard of him.’ But really I was just looking for something to do as pop-up theatre for Chichester Community Theatre. There are just the three short pieces and they add up to something like 20 to 25 minutes, and it will be a lot of fun.

“And also it is something a bit different. Usually with the pop-up theatre it is just a couple of actors, but with these I have got a cast of seven. The cast are wonderful and are really enjoying discovering him.”

“No booking is required. People can just turn up. Admission is free and all the venues are easy to get to as they’re all centrally located. It’s a fantastic opportunity to come along, take a break from shopping, support the festival and discover the comic genius of N F Simpson.”

Lasting in total about 25-minutes, the three short A Witty Tribute to N F Simpson plays will be performed by Barry Smith, Pat Thompsett, Roger Booth, Tiffin Jones, Barbara MacWhirter and Linda Hull and will take place on the following dates at various city centres venues:

Saturday, June 15 at St John’s Chapel, St. John’s Street at 11am.

Saturday, June 22 at Pallant House Gallery Garden, East Pallant at 11am.

Saturday, June 29 at the Studio at New Park Centre, New Park Road at 11am.

Saturday, July 6 at Chichester Library, Tower Street at 2pm.

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