HISTORY:Grand Opening of the Minerva Theatre

Amelia Mlynowska has used the archive to research the opening of the Minerva in 1989.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s Roman inspired logo on the Minerva Theatre

The grand opening of The Minerva Studio was on 22nd April 1989, 12:15pm. The Duchess of Norfolk opened the Theatre complex. Those in attendance were John Gale, Artistic Director of CFT, founder Leslie Evershed-Martin, and the Minerva’s first Artistic Director, Sam Mendes. As well as dignitaries the Mayor and Mayoress of Chichester, Deputy Mayor, The Bishop of Chichester, Chairman of Planning, Nilsson UK representatives, Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons Ltd representatives, Sir Peter Rice and other notable names from CFT history.[1] Previous Artistic Director, Sir Laurence Oliver said ‘I am delighted to hear that the studio theatre will open in the spring. It will be of particular benefit to the young actors and directors who are the stars of the future’.[2]

 The first season

The Minerva Studio Theatre was to open to the public in May 1989. On Friday 5th May, 1989, at 12noon CFT held a Press Conference to announce the Minerva Studio Theatre season. It was held in the Minerva Studio Theatre.

Between John Gale (the then Artistic Director of the Festival Theatre), Sam Mendes, (the first Artistic Director of The Minerva) and Will Cohu (Administrative support) they decided the first season would be:

  • Gorky’s Summerfolk in a version by Botho Strauss and Peter Stein, trans. Michael Robinson
  • Culture Vultures by Robin Glendinning- a British premiere
  • Warrior by Shirley Gee- A World premiere
  • Marivaux’s The Triumph of Love trans. Guy Callan
  • Cloud Nine by Carol Churchill
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare
  • The Purity Game by Gillian Plowman- a World Premiere

There was also a late night revue called War and Peaces, three Youth Theatre productions, six platform productions and Dame Wendy Hiller, Irene Worth and Patricia Routledge performed one-woman shows.[3]

And beyond…

On 1st October 1989 John Gale handed over the reins (CFT Artistic Director) to Robin Phillips[4], who said ‘I am particularly interested in the new Studio Theatre complex in Chichester. I believe the highest standard of training and the greatest possibilities of development should be made available to all artists, young and old. The opportunities now available in Chichester are tremendous’.[5]

Amelia Mlynowska is one of our Young Playwrights and an alumni of the Youth Theatre

[1] Press Release 07.04.89, in Box 38 of the CFT archive at WSRO

[2]  Box 47 of the CFT archive at WSRO

[3] Press Release, in Box 38 of the CFT archive at WSRO

[4] Robin Phillips was soon after replaced by Michael Rudman

[5] Press Release, in Box 38 of the CFT archive at WSRO