Chess is Arundel Festival production

Chess cast. Photo by Rosey Purchase
Chess cast. Photo by Rosey Purchase

The Arundel Players bring Chess – The Musical to town for their Arundel Festival production.

Featuring music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice, it will be directed by Felpham-based Kate Bennett at the Players’ Priory Playhouse from Saturday to Saturday, August 19 to 26.

The piece uses the game of chess as a metaphor for romantic rivalries and the US-Soviet rivalry during the Cold War.

The main characters form a love triangle: the ill-mannered American Grandmaster, the intense Russian champion who plans on defecting to the West and the Hungarian-American female chess second who arrives at the international championships with the American but falls in love with the Russian.

From Bangkok to Budapest, the players, lovers, politicians and spies all struggle to get the upper hand.

“I have been a member of the Arundel Players for a long time,” says Kate, “and they have been doing musicals now for a while. When they do, I am usually their go-to which is lovely for me.

“And I just love Chess. I love the music, and I love the story. The music is just stunning, and I just think the Abba boys have done such a good job with it.

“If you look at some musicals written by pop singers, they sound like pop musicals, but Chess doesn’t. It sounds like a proper musical – albeit from a couple of guys that write very good pop songs.

“It is set in the 70s with that Cold War theme, the Americans against the Russians, but it doesn’t labour it. It is a love story, a love triangle.”

The key to getting it right is finding the right singers, and Kate is delighted to confirm that she has done exactly that.

“It is an acting piece, of course, but the singers have got to be right. It is hard singing. It is really tough singing to do.

“Musically it is very difficult, and you definitely need the right people to do it. With this, you just don’t have a show if you haven’t got the right people.

“So I am very lucky that I have got the right people in the right roles. They are here for the love of Chess – the musical, not the game! A lot of them have done it before, and they have come to do it again. One of my men said he was supposed to be resting, but he told me ‘You don’t pass up the chance to do Chess!’

“It certainly helps in rehearsals when you have got people who know it like that. It means they come with a knowledge of the music, which speeds up the whole process.

“We don’t have very long to put it on. It takes a lot of companies four or five months to put on Chess, but we are doing it in only 12 weeks.

“And most of the other companies are doing it on a big stage.

“We are doing it in a very, very small space. A lot of people said I must be mad to be doing Chess in such a small theatre, but I don’t think I am! I think doing it with a reduced cast gives it a different feel.

“We have reduced the ensemble, not the principals, and I think it concentrates it. It means you are really thinking about the drama rather than thinking ‘Let’s do a big musical!’”

The box office is open from 9am to 9pm daily on 07523 417926. All performances start at 7.30pm, and tickets cost £14 each. The Arundel Players are also offering Windows 17 and Windows 17 Plus One, two short plays written and directed by Stuart Smithers, August 21- 26. The first play will start at 10.15am.

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