STARS of stage and screen including Caroline Quentin, Penelope Keith, Patricia Hodge, Matt Lucas, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Rufus Hound headline Chichester Festival Theatre’s Festival 2018, its second season under new leadership.

They will star in “a kaleidoscopic array” of classics, musicals and new work plus classic comedies, powerful contemporary dramas and timely revivals, as well as two musicals and a family show in a programme devised by artistic director Daniel Evans and executive director Rachel Tackley, who both joined the theatre in 2016.

Men Behaving Badly star Caroline Quentin and Little Britain star Matt Lucas make their Chichester debuts in the musical Me And My Girl while Penelope Keith makes a return to Chichester to star in The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold. Copenhagen by Michael Frayn stars Patricia Hodge, who appeared on TV in Miranda, and Downton Abbey actor Charles Edwards, who played Lady Edith’s love Michael Gregson, as well asSpooks actor Paul Jesson, who is making his Chichester debut.

The programme also includes Cock, a very adult play by Dr Foster writer Mike Bartlett, described as “a provocative peep into relationships in these days of oscillating identities”, which “tussles with knotty 21st century questions: can we – and should we be allowed to – change if we want to?

Singer, actor and comedian Gary Wilmot appears alongside The Bill star Clare Burt and award-winning actress Joanna Riding in Flowers for Mrs Harris from the novel by Paul Gallico, and actor and director Samuel West directs The Watsons, a new play by Laura Wade adapted from the unfinished novel by Jane Austen. Tracy-Ann Oberman, who played Golde in last year’s Chichester Festival Theatre production Fiddler on the Roof, and Rufus Hound star in Noel Coward’s comedy Present Laughter, and there’s also a double bill of plays by debbie tucker green, one of theatre’s most original and internationally acclaimed voices.

For children, there’s an adaptation of David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang by Bryony Lavery with music and lyrics by Joe Stilgoe.

After a record-breaking season last year with three Festival 2017 productions transferring to London this year, the new season, which runs from April to November, will include new plays by Charlotte Jones, Bryony Lavery and Laura Wade, new directors as well as returning directors such as Samuel West, and major revivals of classic and contemporary dramas.

In a joint statement, Daniel Evans and Rachel Tackley say, “Festival 2018 is all about breadth of choice, perfectly illustrated by our opening plays: Noël Coward in the Festival Theatre and debbie tucker green in the Minerva.

“We have three new plays by outstanding playwrights Charlotte Jones, Bryony Lavery and Laura Wade, and revivals of significant contemporary work by Mike Bartlett and Michael Frayn. We look forward to welcoming three of the UK’s brightest young directors – Natalie Abrahami, Tinuke Craig and Kate Hewitt – to Chichester for the first time, alongside welcome debuts by Michael Blakemore and Sean Foley. And we’re thrilled that our brilliant Dale Rooks, who has given us so many outstanding Youth Theatre productions including Running Wild, makes her Festival debut with a show for all ages.”

They add, “This season, we will achieve a 50:50 gender balance in our acting company, which includes some of the most exciting and beloved names in British theatre.”


Present Laughter by Noël Coward

Festival Theatre

Friday April 20-Saturday May 12
Actor Garry Essendine is at the height of his fame. He’s handsome, witty, surrounded by adoring fans, and about to take his latest theatrical hit overseas. He’s also in the middle of a raging mid-life crisis. Holed up in his studio, he is assailed from all quarters: a beautiful debutante wants to bed him, an aspiring playwright from Uckfield wants to worship him, and his own producer’s wife wants to… well, what exactly does she want? Under the sardonic eye of his long-suffering secretary and the unshockable gaze of his estranged but determined wife, Garry struggles to keep all the balls in the air.
This sparkling comedy about sex, fame and the theatre itself – and a man wrestling with his own self-image – is widely regarded as Noël Coward’s most autobiographical play.

Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Monica, joining actor, comedian and presenter Rufus Hound as Gary Essendine. He returns to Chichester following Neville’s Island (2013). His stage work also includes One Man, Two Guvnors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End). Present Laughter is directed by Sean Foley, whose hit West End productions include The Painkiller, Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Olivier Award for Best Comedy), The Ladykillers, The Dresser (at Chichester in 2016) and the multi-award-winning The Play What I Wrote. It will be designed by Alice Power, with lighting by Mark Henderson, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, and movement by Lizzi Gee.

random/generations: a double bill of plays by debbie tucker green

Minerva Theatre

Friday May 4-Saturday June 2


‘never trouble trouble til trouble trouble you’. But trouble does arrive. And changes everything. This blistering play, told through the eyes of a young woman, explores the unbearable sense of loss felt by a family faced with a catastrophic and random act.


In the cradle of their South African family, Boyfriend and Girlfriend are beginning their lives together, just as Mama and Dad, and Grandad and Nana, did before them. Until, one by one, family members start to disappear. Fierce, warm and funny, these two short and haunting dramas, presented here in a double bill, examine love, life and loss through the lives of two families on two continents. random is an extraordinary play for one actress, whilst the generations company includes a South African choir.

A playwright, screenwriter and director, debbie tucker green is one of theatre’s most original and internationally acclaimed voices. She won the Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 2004 for born bad, and the 2012 BAFTA Award for Best Single Drama for the television version of random. Both plays are directed by Tinuke Craig, making her Chichester debut. random and generations will be designed by Alex Lowde, with lighting by Joshua Drualus Pharo and movement by Morgann Runacre Temple.

The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold

Festival Theatre
Friday-Saturday May 25-June 16

Nothing will grow for eccentric, high-born Mrs St Maugham in the dry earth of her once grand Sussex garden. Indoors, the situation is even worse. Her wild and damaged granddaughter, sixteen-year-old Laurel, sets fires and throws tantrums. When the enigmatic Miss Madrigal arrives to take up the post of Laurel’s companion, the household is disconcerted by her evasive oddity. Where has she come from, and why does she refuse to speak about her past? Both singular comedy and haunting mystery, this startling insight into mother-daughter relationships is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most remarkable plays. The author of many books and dramas, Enid Bagnold is still best known for her 1935 novel National Velvet.

Penelope Keith makes a return to Chichester to play Mrs St Maugham. Her roles at Chichester encompass The Apple Cart, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Way of the World, Entertaining Angels and Mrs Pat. Amanda Root, returning to Chichester following The Deep Blue Sea (2011), plays Miss Madrigal. Oliver Ford Davies, who appeared in Goodnight Mr Tom (2011), makes his Festival debut.

The Chalk Garden is directed by Alan Strachan, who directed Entertaining Angels (2006) and Mrs Pat (2015) with Penelope Keith at Chichester. His many West End productions range from plays by Coward and Ayckbourn to Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare. The Chalk Garden will be designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by Natasha Chivers, music by Catherine Jayes and sound by Emma Laxton.

The Country Wife by William Wycherley
Minerva Theatre

Friday-Saturday June 8-July 7

The City of London. The randy 17th century. Harry Horner wants to seduce as many women as possible, but he needs to convince their husbands that he’s physically incapable of any such thing. Cannily, his faux impotence also allows him to sniff out and unmask those respectably virtuous ladies who secretly ache for him. But this virile villain hasn’t reckoned with Mr Pinchwife’s sexy young spouse, Margery, fresh from the rather too plain-speaking countryside. Widely regarded as one of the filthiest and funniest plays ever written, William Wycherley’s The Country Wife has outraged and excited audiences for over 300 years (though not during the many years it was banned from both stage and print) and today still casts a provocative light on sexual mores.

Director Jonathan Munby returns to Chichester following his huge success with King Lear (Festival 2017, West End 2018) and First Light (Festival 2016). Recent work also includes his new production of Bryony Lavery’s Frozen in the West End.

Susannah Fielding makes her Chichester debut as Margery Pinchwife: her theatre work includes The Beaux’ Stratagem (National Theatre) and Portia in The Merchant of Venice (RSC/Almeida). The Country Wife will be designed by Soutra Gilmour, with lighting by Richard Howell, music by Grant Olding and sound by Emma Laxton.

Me And My Girl 

Festival Theatre
Monday July 2-Saturday August 25

Relaxed performance at 2.30pm Wednesday July 25: suitable for individuals, groups and families with children on the autistic spectrum, sensory and communication disorders or anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed theatre environment

At Hareford Hall in Hampshire, suspense is in the air. The family solicitor has found the long- lost heir to the Hareford title and riches. But, to everyone’s horror, he’s a Cockney barrow boy called Bill Snibson. As the Duchess determinedly sets out to transform him into a true gentleman, Bill’s sweetheart Sally wonders how she fits in to his new life. Before too long, Bill has to answer some soul-searching questions about who he really is.

This uproarious musical comedy, fromm the book and lyrics by L Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber, includes the popular numbers The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Lambeth Walk and of course Me and My Girl. The revised version by Stephen Fry and Michael Ockrent, also featuring Leaning on a Lamppost, won the 1985 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical. This new staging is directed by Daniel Evans with designs by Lez Brotherston and choreography by Alistair David, the outstanding team behind Festival 2017’s hit musical Fiddler on the Roof. Music is by Noel Gay.

Caroline Quentin, as the Duchess of Dene, and Little Britain star Matt Lucas make their Chichester debuts. One of television’s most popular actors from series such as Men Behaving Badly, Jonathan Creek and Dickensian, Caroline’s recent stage work includes The Hypocrite (RSC) and Relatives Values (West End).

The musical supervisor and musical director will be Gareth Valentine, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Carolyn Downing.

The Meeting

Minerva Theatre
Friday-Saturday July 13- August 11

Rachel has been the voice for her deaf mother since she was born but now she is restless to be heard for herself. Together, they have found sanctuary in a Quaker community that reveres silence. But the world is at war and it is becoming ever harder to live in Friendship. When a stranger arrives in their midst, their fragile peace is set to shatter.

This powerful new play from the acclaimed writer Charlotte Jones is a spellbinding exploration of the timeless challenges of bringing the truth to light. Charlotte Jones’s multi award-winning play Humble Boy transferred to the West End and Broadway following a sell-out run at the National Theatre. Her other work includes The Lightning Play at the Almeida Theatre, The Dark at the Donmar Warehouse and Martha, Josie & The Chinese Elvis (UK tour).

Director Natalie Abrahami makes her Chichester debut. Her recent productions include Queen Anne (RSC/West End) and Happy Days (Young Vic). She was Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, from 2007-2012 and Associate Director of the Young Vic.

The Meeting will be designed by Vicki Mortimer, with lighting by Paule Constable and Marc Williams, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, and movement by Mark Smith.

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn
Minerva Theatre
Friday-Saturday August 17-September 22

In 1941, in the middle of the Second World War, the great German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a strange trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish colleague Niels Bohr. They were old friends and collaborators, and together in the 1920s they had begun to lay bare the mysteries at the heart of the atom. But now Denmark was under German occupation, the meeting was fraught with danger and embarrassment – and Heisenberg was burdened with a terrible secret. Why he went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions which have exercised historians ever since. In Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning drama Heisenberg meets Bohr and his wife Margrethe once again to look for the answers, and to work out, just as they had once worked out the internal functioning of the atom, how we can ever know why we do what we do.

Michael Frayn is one of this country’s finest writers. Copenhagen premiered at the National Theatre in 1998, going on to the West End and Broadway and winning over 10 major international awards. Director Michael Blakemore’s many collaborations with Michael Frayn include Democracy at the National Theatre and the original production of Copenhagen for which he won a Tony Award to add to his 15 Evening Standard or Olivier Awards for other London work.

Patricia Hodge plays Margrethe Bohr, while Charles Edwards returns to Chichester to play Heisenberg. Patricia’s most recent Chichester appearance was in Travels with My Aunt (2016); her many television credits include Miranda and Downton Abbey. Her extensive West End and UK theatre work includes Frayn’s Noises Off, Summerfolk and Money (Olivier Award) at the National Theatre. Charles’s work ranges from TV’s Downton Abbey to the original cast of This House and the forthcoming Absolute Hell (National Theatre). Paul Jesson makes his Chichester debut as Bohr. His screen work includes Mr Turner and Spooks, while extensive theatre includes Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies (RSC).

This 20th anniversary production of Copenhagen will be designed by Peter J Davison, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Carolyn Downing and video by Nina Dunn.

Flowers for Mrs Harris
Festival Theatre
Saturday-Saturday September 8-29

Ada Harris spends her days dusting, darning, polishing and scrubbing. But her first glimpse of a ravishing Christian Dior dress sets her off on a journey that will change her life forever… From the cobbled streets of post-war London to the shimmering avenues of Paris, Ada transforms the lives of everyone she meets along the way; but can she let go of the past and finally allow her own life to blossom?

This new musical, directed by Daniel Evans, captures the glowing humanity of the novella by Paul Gallico on which it is based. The production began in Sheffield, where it won three UK Theatre Awards including Best Musical.

Director Rachel Wagstaff adapted Sebastian Faulks’s novel Birdsong for the West End. Richard Taylor is a composer and lyricist for stage, opera and television, whose work includes Beauty and the Beast (CFYT 2017) and The Go-Between (West End).

Clare Burt recreates her award-winning performance as Mrs Harris; her extensive musical theatre work includes London Road and Sunday in the Park with George (National Theatre) and Big Fish (West End). Joanna Riding returns to Chichester following The Pajama Game (Festival 2013 and West End), while Gary Wilmot makes his Festival debut.

Flowers for Mrs Harris is designed by Lez Brotherston; the musical director is Tom Brady; with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Mike Walker and movement by Naomi Said.

Cock by Mike Bartlett

Minerva Theatre
Friday-Saturday September 28-October 27

Contains very strong language and scenes of a sexual nature. Age guideline 16+

Has John straightened out? After years glued to his boyfriend, the couple have been through a sticky patch, and now John’s attached to someone else. Someone who is different in every single way. But can John give her what she wants, when he’s never been with a woman before? Funny and eye-openingly fresh and frank, Cock is a provocative peep into relationships in these days of oscillating identities. It tussles with knotty 21st century questions: can we – and should we be allowed to – change if we want to?

Mike Bartlett is one of this generation’s leading writers for stage and screen. His award- winning work includes King Charles III (Almeida, West End and BBC) and the hit television series Doctor Foster. The Olivier Award-winning Cock premiered at the Royal Court and off- Broadway in 2009.

Kate Hewitt directs. Winner of the JMK Young Director Award and the inaugural RTST Director Award 2016, she was recently named as one of Variety’s 10 Brits to Watch in 2017. Her credits include Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon at Sheffield and Caryl Churchill’s Far Away at the Young Vic.

Cock will be designed by Georgia Lowe, with lighting by Guy Hoare and sound by Giles Thomas.

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

Saturday-Saturday October 13-November 3

Suitable for ages 7+

A bang on the head during a cricket match at his boarding school has landed twelve-year-old Tom in the children’s ward of the spooky Lord Funt Hospital. Luckily, he’s not on his own with the child-hating Matron and the scary-looking Porter. George, Amber, Robin and Sally are in there too, and they’re not taking things lying down. When the lights go out and the clock strikes twelve, they’re off. But will they let new boy Tom join their forbidden midnight adventures through the hospital’s labyrinthine realm?

This inventive tale of fun, friendship and the importance of kindness is adapted from David Walliams’s biggest-selling children’s book of 2016. This new stage version is by Bryony Lavery, whose adaptations include Chichester’s hit family shows The Hundred and One Dalmatians (2014) and A Christmas Carol (2015), with music and lyrics by renowned musician and composer Joe Stilgoe (The Jungle Book, 2017).

Director Dale Rooks’s production of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild (Festival 2015) won the UK Theatre Award for Best Show for Children and Young People; she later co-directed the play for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and a UK tour. Her most recent production at Chichester was Beauty and the Beast.

The Midnight Gang will be designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by James Whiteside, sound by Gregory Clarke and movement by Georgina Lamb.

The Watsons

Minerva Theatre
Saturday-Saturday November 3-December 1

What happens when the writer loses the plot? Emma Watson is 19 and new in town. She’s been cut off by her rich aunt and dumped back in the family home. Emma and her sisters must marry, fast. If not, they face poverty, spinsterhood, or worse: an eternity with their boorish brother and his awful wife. Luckily there are plenty of potential suitors to dance with, from flirtatious Tom Musgrave to castle-owning Lord Osborne, who’s as awkward as he is rich. So far so familiar. But there’s a problem: Jane Austen didn’t finish the story. Who will write Emma’s happy ending now?

Based on Jane Austen’s incomplete novel, this sparklingly witty play looks under the bonnet of Jane Austen and asks: what can characters do when their author abandons them? It’s a new play by Laura Wade, whose hit play Posh transferred to the West End from the Royal Court, and then onto the big screen as The Riot Club. Recent work includes the adaptation of Tipping the Velvet (Lyric Hammersmith and Edinburgh); her play Home I’m Darling premieres at Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre in 2018.

Samuel West returns to Chichester, where he has appeared in Young Chekhov and ENRON, and directed Three Women and A Piano Tuner (2004). He was Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres 2005-07, where he revived The Romans in Britain. The Watsons will be designed by Ben Stones, with lighting by Johanna Town, music by Isobel Waller-Bridge and sound by Gregory Clarke.

Sleeping Beauty by Rufus Norris

Festival Theatre
Saturday-Sunday December 15-30

Suitable for ages 7+.
Presented by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, from
The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods by Charles Perrault

A princess under a fairy’s curse pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps for a hundred years, waiting to be woken by a prince’s kiss. But hold on a moment. There’s a distinctly different slant to this story. The princess is beautiful and spirited but there are two princes and a lot of threatening thorns. As for the fairy who caused all the trouble in the first place – well, putting things right isn’t as simple as casting another spell. Rufus Norris’s splendidly entertaining and mischievous version of the original fairy tale ventures beyond the usual ‘happy ever after’ ending with the prince and princess united. The course of true love never did run smooth – especially if your mother-in-law is an ogress with an unfortunate taste for human flesh…

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre are renowned for their wonderfully imaginative productions. They follow their five-star versions of Grimm Tales and Beauty and the Beast with a Sleeping Beauty that will keep you wide awake.

Rufus Norris’s version of Sleeping Beauty premiered at the Young Vic (2002). He is Director of the National Theatre.
There will be a
relaxed performance of Sleeping Beauty at 2pm on Sunday December 30.

Chichester Festival runs from April to November at Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester. Booking opens on Saturday March 3 (online only) and Tuesday 6 March (phone and in person). Tickets from £10/prologue: £5 tickets for 16-25s (10,000 £5 tickets are available for 16-25-year-olds for all productions throughout Festival 2018). Phone 01243 781312 or visit

Above: Penelope Keith

Main picture, top: Caroline Quentin

Below: Tracy-Ann Oberman/picture: Wolf Marloh

Above: Matt Lucas

Above: Patricia Hodge

Below: Amanda Root

Above: Michael Frayn/picture: Ekko von Schwichow

Below: Charles Edwards

Above: Paul Jesson

Below: Mike Bartlett

Above: Gary Wilmot Below: Clare Burt

Above: Joanna Riding

Below: Oliver Ford Davies

Above: Rufus Hound

Below: David Walliams

Above: Susannah Fielding

Below: Joe Stilgoe

Above: random/generations

Below: The Chalk Garden

Above: Chichester Festival Theatre executive director Rachel Tackley and artistic director Daniel Evans/picture: Tobias Key 

Below: Present Laughter by Noel Coward

Above: The Country Wife

Below: Me And My Girl

Above: The Meeting

Below: Copenhagen

Above: Flowers for Mrs Harris

Below: Cock

Above: The Midnight Gang

Below: The Watsons

Above: Sleeping Beauty

Below: Bryony Lavery/picture: Gordon Rainsford

Above: Laura Wade/picture: Linda Nylind