We’ve been showing it off for months now; public and private tours for members of the public to experience and explore backstage areas, and the Open Day where we threw open every single door for visitors to find out more about what happens behind the scenes. But this week we have been able to properly enjoy our renewed and refreshed Theatre from a rather special vantage point.
As I write this, I can turn to the right and ahead, and see green parkland space. The Director’s Office is a mere few metres away, and to the left is our brand new meeting room. Yes, we have finally packed up out of our temporary office in the Stephen Pimlott building and officially moved into the Festival Theatre!
The office is housed in the new extension added to the back of the Theatre. A huge lightwell that spills outside light down into this office space also connects the upstairs dressing room area with admin. Everything is open plan and we are all on an equal footing. This is a design feature that you will find in all areas of the Theatre, from the entrance foyer, a space with no ‘VIP’ areas which every single ticket holder can enjoy, to the 12 dressing rooms in the new extension, that all provide the same facilities for each performer – no matter what the name. This sense of democratic space not only enhances the feeling of community within the building (between both cast, crew and admin) but is also an important and original feature of Powell and Moya’s 1962 vision.
“Have you noticed this new, surging life in the theatre world?”
So begins Richard Findlater’s article (see image to the right), published in the Evening Standard on Monday 14th November, 1960. This particular article captures the excitement and indeed, need, for a new kind of theatre in Britain. As the television set found its way into more and more homes, something needed to change within the world of the theatre to entice the public through auditorium doors. This change is aptly described by Findlater, who writes,
“Into the British theatre of the 1960’s – prematurely looped with crepe by ever-ready mourners – come new bewitching sounds…The sound of unfurling blueprints for new buildings. The sound of men talking about new buildings. And even the sound of buildings being built…TV is supposed to be killing off the live theatre. Yet suddenly there is the stir of new life – not only in plays and players but in bricks and mortar, too.”
Chichester Festival Theatre truly was an exceptional feat of building work, not least because the money raised for the build came from private donations and the local community, who obviously felt the same as Findlater: “We need more theatres and we need new ones.”