Chichester Festival Theatre announces Festival 2023

They are bringing together a range of new works, modern classics and plenty of musical delights. Chichester Festival Theatre has just announced their 2023 programme. There’s a handful of world premieres, and renowned plays which have never been performed at CFT before. Including Arthur Miller, Rodgers and Hammerstein. There’s a rare outing of a play by US writer Adrienne Kennedy. Also, 50 years after his death, a new production of Noël Coward’s first big success. Contemporary, 20th century or classical, every piece has something to say about the world around us today.

A company of exceptional actors are heading to Chichester,  including Dame Eileen Atkins, Samuel Barnett, Carly Bawden. Also, Gina Beck, Rory Bremner, Sebastian Croft, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Joshua James, Danny Mac, Alexandra Roach, Zizi Strallen, Lia Williams, Greg Wise and Susan Wokoma.  Seven directors are make their Festival debuts.

This will be the last festival programmed by outgoing Artistic Director, Daniel Evans. The programme includes some brilliant family friendly activities, live events, exhibitions, workshops and the return of CFT Lates. He said: “I’d like to thank the many thousands of freelance artists, creatives and technical staff who’ve brought them to life. CFT’s indefatigable staff; and of course our audiences, who are among the most supportive and adventurous theatregoers in the country. I know they will welcome my successor, Justin Audibert, with the same warmth that greeted my own arrival in this beautiful and unique theatre.”

What’s on at the festival

The Vortex

Directed by Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award nominee Daniel Raggett, Noël Coward’s The Vortex heads to CFT on Fri 28 April – Sat 20 May. Set amongst the Roaring 20s, it sees the  magnetic Florence Lancaster draw people to her like moths to a flame. But when her son Nicky arrives home from Paris with an unexpected fiancée and a secret, it sets off a chain of events which threatens to pull them all into a maelstrom. This brilliantly witty and stinging portrait of the darkness beneath the glittering surface of the Jazz Age is as vivid today as when it premiered. I caused a sensation and catapulting its young writer to his first great success. 

Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles tuns at the Minerva Theatre on Thurs 4 May – Sat 10 June. Richard Eyre directs this warm, wry and compassionate story about love, loss, memory and moving on. Late one night, 21-year-old Leo arrives without warning at his grandmother’s Manhattan apartment – the furthest point on a momentous bike ride across America. Vera is 91 and lives alone, her independence undimmed by the challenges of modern living. Baffled by each other at first, this odd couple slowly edge across the distance between them.

Tony Award-winning musical comedy

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and story by John Weidman, Assassins lights up the Festival Theatre on Sat 3 – Sat 24 June. This biting, Tony Award-winning, musical comedy takes us on a daring, time-bending journey through American history. Amongst a surreal carnival, a small group of people who have one thing in common: they want to assassinate the President of the United States. 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.

Quiz (Rory Bremner)_Chichester Festival Theatre 2023

Adrienne and Adam P Kennedy’s autobiographical play, Mom, How Did You Meet The Beatles?, is presented as a one-act, near-monologue to her son at the Minerva Theatre on Fri 16 June – Sat 8 July. Directed by Diyan Zora (winner of the 2021 Genesis Futures Award), it’s a mesmerising and disquieting tale of a Black woman’s betrayal at the hands of the establishment.
A young playwright impulsively leaves New York for London with her young son, intent on adapting John Lennon’s book In His Own Write for the stage. In the heady atmosphere of the Swinging ‘60s, she finds herself rubbing shoulders with a dizzying array of celebrities, including all four Beatles. And when her idols, Laurence Olivier – director of the National Theatre – and his influential literary manager Kenneth Tynan, along with actor Victor Spinetti, promise to produce her play, it seems like a dream come true. But slowly the stars seem to align in a different way.

Musical classics

The Sound of Music was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s last and perhaps most treasured musical, and is being presented by CFT for the first time on Mon 10 July – Sun 3 Sept. Director Adam Penford takes us to 30s Austria, as a free-spirited nun Maria is sent away from her abbey. Becoming a governess to the widowed Captain von Trapp’s seven children, she brings music and laughter back to an unfeeling household – but the future holds more joy and jeopardy than she ever dreamed possible.

It’s the 1970s and feminism is on the rise, in Rock Follies, a new musical by Chloë Moss. Fed up with the male-dominated entertainment industry, Anna, Dee and Q take the future into their own hands and form a rock band – the ironically named ‘Little Ladies’. And so begins the musical helter-skelter ride of a lifetime. Can principles and ambition co-exist? And can their friendship survive in the dog-eat-dog world of rock? With a book by Chloë Moss and original songs from the ground-breaking TV series by Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay, this punchy new musical brings a rousing, riotous rollercoaster of woman power to the Minerva Theatre on Mon 24 July – Sat 26 Aug.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present Shakespeare’s 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Chichester’s West Dean Gardens on Fri 4 – Sat 19 Aug. Faced with unwanted marriages and parents who don’t listen, four teenage lovers flee the city. But in the forest things are no better: the Fairy King and Queen are at war and a bunch of wannabe actors struggle to get their show off the ground. In this enchanted, topsy-turvy world, their dream of escape threatens to turn into a nightmare. Friends fall out, transformations abound, and magic piles on mayhem.

More to discover later in the year

Directed by Emma Butler,  Deborah Frances-White’s Never Have I Ever heads to Minerva Theatre on Fri 1 – Sat 30 Sept. Jacq and Kas’s boutique restaurant has gone bust, and telling their oldest friends Adaego and her rich husband Tobin that his investment is toast is only the start of the evening. Cash, class, identity and infidelity are all on the menu. As the last of the expensive wine flows, a dangerous drinking game reveals long-hidden truths and provokes an unspeakable dare. This explosive first play the comedian, screenwriter and host of global hit podcast The Guilty Feminist, brilliantly skewers the contradictions of contemporary society, and the shifting sands of power and sexual politics. 

Rory Bremner appears in Quiz on Fri 22 – Sat 30 Sept at the Festival Theatre. This revised version of James Graham’s celebrated comedy is directed by Daniel Evans and Seán Linnen and opens a brand-new UK tour at Chichester. A fictional exploration of deviousness and recriminations  based on real events around a certain hit gameshow, it asks the question of what would you try to get away with in the name of money?

Incredible plays at Chichester festival Theatre

Directed by Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, Arthur Miller A View From The Bridge comes to the Festival Theatre on Sun 6 – Sat 28 Oct. Arthur Miller’s visceral and compelling drama is a timeless masterpiece. On the Brooklyn waterfront, where the fierce passions of ancestral Sicily linger, the orphaned Catherine falls for her handsome, newly arrived cousin Rodolfo. Their romance is encouraged by her aunt Beatrice but viewed with revulsion by her uncle, Eddie Carbone, who harbours an unspoken desire. As tensions rise, their story spins inexorably beyond control.

Directed by Joanna Bowman, The Inquiry is a new play. It was written by Harry Davies and is at the Minerva Theatre on Fri 13 Oct – Sun 4 Nov. MP Arthur Gill is one of Westminster’s rising stars. Still in his 30s, he’s just become the Secretary of State for Justice, assuming the role of Lord Chancellor too. With a leadership race on the horizon, he’s a favourite to be the next Prime Minister. But there’s a problem. An inquiry is on the brink of publishing its findings about a public health disaster. It is scandal that happened on Gill’s watch when he was environment minister. As leaks multiply and the waters grow murkier, how far will he go to hide his past and protect his future?

For details on all these productions. Or for a rich array of satellite events, workshops, talks, and family activities, head to: www.cft.org.uk 

Love arts and culture? Check out the Brighton Festival programme

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