Chichester was a place full of memories for theatre, film and TV actor Sir Donald Sinden who has died at his home aged 90 following a long illness.
Returning to the city in 2005, Sir Donald Sinden said he cherished boyhood memories of Chichester back in the 1920s, back in the days when the market cross seemed ‘absolutely massive’.
“I have particular memories of standing looking up at it and it just seemed enormous when I was a boy,” said Sir Donald who was appearing at a fund–raising night for the Sussex Snowdrop Trust.
He well remembered visiting his great grandfather who was a baker in Chichester by the name of Cadby and lived on the Bognor Road: “He died at a decent age in 1936.”
Sir Donald enjoyed a string of successes at Chichester Festival Theatre, particularly under his close friend, former CFT boss John Gale
Sir Donald and Mr Gale went back a long way: “We used to live two streets away in London. We have known each other for 40 years,” Sir Donald recalled. “We first worked together when John did a play called Shut Your Eyes And Think Of England. It was a wonderful farce.”
Sir Donald also appeared for John for a year in a production of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. In Chichester, Sir Donald appeared in John’s productions of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Venus Observed. He also visited the city in a touring production of Hamlet in the mid-1990s, in which he played Polonius.
Sir Donald described the CFT as an “interesting” stage, admitting he was more of a ‘proscenium arch chap myself.: “I like to control the audience and you can’t do that when they are behind you!”
Give him a pros arch stage any day, he said. No matter how huge.
“I have always maintained that we don’t need smaller theatres. We just need bigger actors! When I was brought up, it didn’t matter how big the stage was. But so many actors spend so much time on the television these days.”
Sir Donald returned to Chichester last year when he represented Prince Charles at a memorial service for former CFT artistic director Patrick Garland in Chichester Cathedral.