Did you know that the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon was designed by Britain’s first female architect? Or that The Old Vic in Bristol is the country’s oldest theatre in terms of continuous use? Or that Laurence Olivier first found himself on a thrust stage by accident; when rain forced a planned outdoor performance of Hamlet at Elsinore into a nearby hotel at the last minute in 1936?
These are just a sprinkling of great facts that poured from Elain Harwood, Senior Architectural Investigator at English Heritage, last Thursday evening (7 November) at Chichester Library as she put Chichester Festival Theatre’s landmark building into a national context. The depth of her knowledge on the subject was breathtaking; Elain began researching post-war theatre buildings in the mid-90s on behalf of English Heritage. It was through this research that she stepped off a train at Chichester station one sunny afternoon and first set eyes on the one-of-a-kind Festival Theatre building. This eventually led to Chichester Festival Theatre being listed at grade 2* status in 1998.