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: Michael Howe (Actor)


michael howe

I had the greatest pleasure of starting my career at the Chichester Festival Theatre  in 1966 playing the Milkman’s Son in The Fighting Cock [that transferred to the West end later that year] and also playing Son of Macduff in Macbeth. John Clements took the title role and it was his first year as Artisic Director after Laurence Olivier stepped down.  There is photograph of myself taken in production with Zena Walker who played Lady Macduff [Page 34 in The Miracle Theatre by Leslie Evershed-Martin, see above] I have since played The Theatre, last time taking the role of Mr Arthur Jingle in Pickwick in 1993.

Fantastic space to work! Inspiring.

From: Michael Howe

Memory: Milton Jones (Comedian)

Comedy Festival – Milton Jones was very entertaining.

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: Margaret Leighton

margaret leighton

She was not obvious casting as the serpent of old Nile. She was beginning the battle with debilitating illness that would kill her within a few years, when only in her 50’s. But in Peter Dews’ production of Antony and Cleopatra, with John Clements as Antony, Margaret Leighton made Cleopatra her own. Her performance was indeed one of ‘infinite variety’: glamorous, haughty, sensuous, witty, ferocious, fickle, passionate, always mesmerically watchable, and in her final moments, unbearably moving.

From: Laurie Slade

Memory: Patricia Routledge (actor)


She has always lent her support to the Theatre and the Youth Theatre.

From: Anon

Memory: Henry Goodman (Actor)

henry goodman

1. A riveting performance with the most spine-tingling ending of any play.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, 2012

From: Anne Barry

2. Henry Goodman was incredible, he was Arturo Ui in every aspect of his being but particularly his physical portrayal. A truly outstanding performance which made you laugh and feel shocked in equal measure.

From: Jill Martin

Memory: Kathleen Turner (Actor)

Kathleen Turner 2

Having Kathleen Turner (my fav actress) appear in Tallulah at CFT, has to be a great moment.

From: Sarah Smithers via Twitter

Tallulah was performed in the Minerva Theatre in 1997