My favourite memory of CFT would be seeing Frantic Assembly’s ‘Lovesong’ the first play to show me how effectively theatre could influence people’s emotions.
From: Alex Wilcox
Other comments: Chichester Festival Theatre was the first theatre I had any exposure to. Living only a few miles away, in Southbourne, it has been a great boon growing up being interested in theatre.
Memory: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (2012)
The amazing atmosphere of menace, the growing dread, the brilliant, mesmerising acting of Henry Goodman, starting as a figure and becoming horrific and compelling, as well as the rest of the cast and the production contributed to an amazing and chilling play that stayed in the memory.
Memory: Uncle Vanya (1996)
1. A superb production, brilliant cast, excellent design, and first-rate translation.
From: Elizabeth Adams
2. Derek Jacobi and Trevor Eve in ‘Uncle Vanya’, I felt I was sitting in the Drawing room with them. It was the first time I had seen a Chekhov play and it was so well acted that it has made me watch more, but nothing as enthralling as this production.
From: Ralph Ansley
Memory: Talking Heads (1996)
Shortly after her towering and award-winning performance at Wyndham’s in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, Maggie Smith’s next stage role was entirely different but perhaps even more extraordinary. In the small Minerva Theatre at Chichester, she recreated her television role in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads…Bed among the Lentils (also directed by Alan Bennett). In the space of 50 minutes she performed the monologue, and was extremely funny (“…Geoffrey’s bad enough…but I’m glad I wasn’t married to Jesus…”), but in an instant she silenced the entire audience, moved many to tears, and in the last 10 minutes you could hear a pin drop in that very small studio theatre, with Smith standing only feet away. I still remember the lengthy pause at the very end before people felt they could applaud. Richard Eyre in his diaries referred to the performance as, “Maggie Smith, on her own, in a class of her own”, while the Independent’s critic Paul Taylor said it was “brilliant beyond belief”, and Jack Tinker simply said that “Smith is ahead of the rest”.
The monologue was paired with Soldiering On, performed by Margaret Tyzack, a close friend of Maggie Smith. It is a very tricky monologue, relying hugely on dramatic irony, but Tyzack achieved the delicate balance between showing enough intelligence while also hinting at self-delusion in a highly subtle and moving performance.
The entire production was a highlight of the 1990s at Chichester, and was a commercial success too: it transferred shortly after to the Comedy Theatre (as it was then called), and was even revived ten years later in 2005 to tour New Zealand and Australia (in a remounted production directed by Anthony Page), where Smith won the Best Actress award of the year at the Helpmann Awards. Memories of this Chichester production may have faded due to Smith’s deserved success in another Bennett play a few years later, The Lady in the Van, but it deserves to be added to the list of Dame Maggie’s other definitive performances at Chichester…like Millamant in The Way of the World, or Desdemona in Othello.
From: Paul Burditt
Memory: Nathan The Wise (2003)
A completely compelling piece of theatre. Superbly acted across the entire cast.
From: Jill Martin
Memory: Patrick Garland (Artistic Director 1981-84 & 1991-94)
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: Pressure (2014)
What a fantastic performance. Held one in its grip for the whole performance and just how much communication has changed since then. You could feel the pressure they were under.
From: Polly Davenport
Memory: Song of Singapore (1998)
It was one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever seen and the Minerva was the perfect venue.
From: Roy Barbour
Memory: Electra (1997)
Excellent production that inspired the dissertation that completed the final year of my degree in Theatre Studies.
From: Elizabeth Adams
Memory: Enron (2009)
1. My most memorable show would be Enron. I planned to come, I booked tickets and they sent me a letter saying, “we’ve changed the script and it’s got ruder.” And I thought “well, I’ll go.” And I was blown away by it, it was fantastic. So I’d gone in, not thinking I was gonna- cos I don’t like expletives. But it was such a good play, it was fabulous.
From: Julie C
2. Fantastic cast and well produced play and my daughter played the daughter in it!
From: Andrew Whitwell
3. I was persuaded to go to the opening night of Enron in the Minerva Theatre by a friend. The idea of a musical about the collapse of a US energy company did not fill me with anticipation, but I am so grateful for my friend’s insistence. From the opening scene, I sat open-mouthed in wonder. It was clever, funny, inventive, irreverent and down-right dirty, and I went on to see it again several times, both in the West End and then on its return to Chichester. It has stayed vividly in my memory ever since.
From: Sarah Mayhead
4. Fantastic production with a brilliant cast.
From: Paula Solieri
Memory: Kathleen Turner (Actor)
Having Kathleen Turner (my fav actress) appear in Tallulah at CFT, has to be a great moment.