Chichester Festival Theatre:Your memories

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Memory: My First Ever Theatre Visit

Production photograph - Black Comedy - Maggie Smith - Photographer Manuel Harlan - 1965 - H20xW25cm

It was 1962 and I was in the sixth form at Bognor Regis Grammar School (long gone). A small group of us found out that there were a number of cheap tickets available on the day of performance and we fancied the adventure of queuing through the night on the pavement with our sleeping bags.

That is how I got to see Joan Plowright in St. Joan.  Shortly after that I saw Uncle Vanya with an amazing cast, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Sybil Thorndike , Lewis Casson, Fay Compton.  I don’t think I realised at the time that my first experience of theatre at the age of 16 was world class stuff and I got it for quite a small price.

I recall that the theatre restaurant  was in a separate building then and the speciality was danish open sandwiches (which no-one had heard of at the time) and they were unbelievably expensive. I only ever tried one and the price of a few prawns with a blob of mayonnaise  and dill garnish on a small square of rye bread was more than I had paid for my ticket to see the best actors in the world onstage.

In 1965 I was already asleep on the pavement with my friends and a small group of actors came out of the theatre, I guess after quite a late and long session at the bar.  One of them was Albert Finney and his sense of balance was not very good at that moment so he tripped over me and woke me up (my fault I guess –  I was lying on the ground in his way!).

He was then very keen for all of us all to be awake and he wanted to engage us in amusing conversation.  A female companion pulled him away and she said (I do remember the exact words) “Leave then alone – weren’t you ever young?”  I have heard lines delivered by Maggie Smith many times since then but never when lying at her feet as I was that that night.

My adolescent experiences at CFT were the start of an addiction to theatre from which I have never recovered and I still regularly come back to Sussex from Amsterdam (where I now live) to productions at the theatre.

From: Mike Williams

Memory: Late 60’s and 70’s Memories

Photograph Exterior CFT with car - Photographer English Heritage - Date unknown

My parents brought me and my two sisters to the Festival Theatre regularly in the late sixties and through the seventies.  We felt the height of sophistication  – we wore long dresses in those days! – and loved it every time.  We got to see some wonderful productions, and marvellous actors – Keith Michell as Cyrano de Bergerac, Joan Plowright, Joanna McCallum, Alastair Sim and Patricia Routledge in Dandy Dick, Dorothy Tutin, Derek Jacobi and Timothy West in A Month in the Country, Alec Guinness as Shylock in the The Merchant of Venice – and so many more I can barely remember!  It nurtured in all of us a love of theatre which continues to this day. We were very lucky – happy memories!

From: Nicky Hyde


Memory: Michael Howe (Actor)


michael howe

I had the greatest pleasure of starting my career at the Chichester Festival Theatre  in 1966 playing the Milkman’s Son in The Fighting Cock [that transferred to the West end later that year] and also playing Son of Macduff in Macbeth. John Clements took the title role and it was his first year as Artisic Director after Laurence Olivier stepped down.  There is photograph of myself taken in production with Zena Walker who played Lady Macduff [Page 34 in The Miracle Theatre by Leslie Evershed-Martin, see above] I have since played The Theatre, last time taking the role of Mr Arthur Jingle in Pickwick in 1993.

Fantastic space to work! Inspiring.

From: Michael Howe

Memory: Make Me A World (1976)

“Make me a world” and another show wonderful Christmas shows. Late 60s? Early 70s? (The latter, I think – our 3 young children loved these, and so did we!)

From: Annette Barker

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