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: Patrick Garland (Artistic Director 1981-84 & 1991-94)

1994 Patrick Garland photograph Box180 H16.4cm W24.5cm_001

A much loved director, constantly fighting with the Arts Council, and first to introduce musicals The Mitford Girls and Underneath the Arches to Chichester, both transferred to the West End. He also encouraged the ‘fringe’ performances, playing at the New Park, The Dolphin and Anchor Hotel and the Pollock’s little theatre in Bosham. So successful were these, that the first ‘tent’ was erected to house them, later giving birth to the hugely popular ‘Minerva’ theatre.

From: Paula Tinker

Memory: Paul Rogerson (Theatre Manager)

Photograph exterior - Vanessa Lees, Paul Rogerson - Photographer Tim Andrews - 1973 - T Andrews collection

The longest ever serving, yes serving, Managing Director who started as Theatre Manager and Concert and Events Organizer and later also took over as Licensee, and managed to keep the theatre going throughout the winter seasons for many years thanks to his connections with the London Music Worlds. Without his input at that time, mid-sixties, the theatre would have been financially unsustainable and an early demise was being predicted. He was the first to bring the Moscow City Ballet, Chris Barber, Rostropovich, David Oistrach, Jaques Loussier and the London Philharmonic Orchestra to Chichester, among many other world class acts. And he kept in touch with them; and that also applies to the many actors and playwrights he cared for personally. But then, Paul knew and cared for every one involved in the theatre, even to the occasional ice cream seller, knew their personal histories, their worries and those of their families.

From: Anon

Other comments: Paul held the whole belly (under belly?) of the theatre together, and when he left after 36 years, everybody was in tears, and an era had come to an end. His modesty and humility, and his deep love for the theatre and all its people ought to be recognized.

Memory: Simon Brett (Long-time supporter)

simon brett

Simon Brett does a lot in a quiet way for CFT. Writing for programmes and skits and generally making himself useful.

From: Anon

Memory: Sir Laurence Olivier (Artistic DIrector)

Laurence OlivierAs the greatest actor of a generation to have him as the 1st Artistic Director was, I believe, the most significant factor in enabling Leslie Evershed-Martin’s dream to be fulfilled. His international status and his acting pedigree attracted both artists and audiences to Chichester – something that probably, at the time, couldn’t have been achieved by anyone else.

From: Simon Parsonage

Memory: Leslie Evershed-Martin (Theatre Founder)

EDITED Photo Leslie Outside Theatre Box 69 H16.5xW21.7cm_001_edited-1

Without him none of us would be here – the Theatre was all a result of this man’s vision and dream.

From: Anon

Memory: Christopher Fry (Playwright)

NPG P67; Christopher Fry by Angus McBean

The Lady’s Not For Burning, adapting Cyrano in the 70’s and Ring Round the Moon.

From: Rupert Rowbotham

Memory: Dale Rooks (LEAP & Youth Theatre Director)

dale 01Director Dale Rooks in rehearsal. Photo Mike Eddowes

The outstanding reason for the rise of CFYT.

From: Rupert Rowbotham

Memory: Denise Milward Oliver

A staunch volunteer.

From: Anita Trevelyan

Memory: Jacqui Hepworth (Supporter)

She always helps out with youth theatre productions as well as serving on a fund raising committee for the Stephen Pimlott Building and Renew. She attends all the plays.

From: Anon

Memory: John Gale OBE (Artistic Director 1985-1989)

johngaleobe He came in and saved the Theatre at a really difficult time for Chichester. Gale turned around the financial difficulties and kept us all employed.

From: Anon

Memory: Jonathan Church and Alan Finch (Artistic and Executive Directors 2006 – 2016)

director 12 Finch

Together they’ve made a huge impact on Chichester, for example they got RENEW off the ground and such a renovation project has been needed for a long time. This was all down to them. They seem to have a Midas Touch when it comes to knowing what Chichester wants.

From: Anon