Stars line up for Chichester Festival Theatre winter season

Hugh Dennis, Lesley Garrett, Nigel Havers, Ruth Jones, Miles Jupp and Stephen Tompkinson are among the stars lining up for the winter season at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 7:27 am
Updated Monday, 3rd September 2018, 12:14 pm
Hugh Dennis, Lesley Garrett and John Marquez in The Messiah
Hugh Dennis, Lesley Garrett and John Marquez in The Messiah

The full season will be announced on Tuesday, August 28. Among the highlights are comedies and plays ranging from the international phenomenon Art and Shakespeare in Love to a new play from the authors of The Wipers Times.

Hugh Dennis, Lesley Garrett and John Marquez open the winter season in The Messiah (Nov 12-17) – a Christmas comedy that promises to be the “funniest and most magical Nativity you will ever see”. A travelling theatre troupe of two actors and an opera singer arrive by camel to re-enact the greatest story ever told…

Shakespeare In Love follows from Nov 20-24. Young Will Shakespeare has writer’s block and he’s in dire need of inspiration. Then he meets the beguiling Viola de Lesseps... The adaptation by Lee Hall of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s multi award-winning film classic is directed by Philip Breen.

Gavin & Stacey star Ruth Jones stars in The Nightingales (Festival Theatre, Nov 27-Dec 1), a comedy by actor/playwright William Gaminara. When the local acapella group gather in the village hall they have every reason to look forward to their weekly rehearsal. Whatever their differences, all are happily bound together in their shared love of music...until one day newcomer Maggie knocks on the door and everything changes…

The CFT’s traditional Christmas concerts are on the main-house stage from December 4-8, featuring The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and Chichester Cathedral Choir. Chichester Festival Youth Theatre then take to the stage with Sleeping Beauty (December 15-30).

The New Year launches with Moscow City Ballet offering The Nutcracker (January 3-6); the season continues in the Minerva with Flute Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, adapted by Kelly Hunter (January 15-26). Viola is saved from drowning with a bucket of freezing water and welcomed into Illyria by a mysterious clown.

Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson offer Art in the main house from January 24-February 2. Since its 1996 premiere, Yasmina Reza’s multi award-winning study of friendship, prejudice and tolerance (translated by Christopher Hampton) has been packing audiences in worldwide.

Following their acclaimed The Wipers Times, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have once again taken inspiration from real-life events for their new play, Trial By Laughter (Feb 4-9). William Hone, the forgotten hero of free speech, was a bookseller, publisher and satirist. In 1817, he stood trial for ‘impious blasphemy and seditious libel’. The only crime he had committed was parodying religious texts and being funny about the despotic government and libidinous monarchy.

Frantic Assembly bring The Unreturning to the Minerva, Feb5-9 Miles Jupp is in The Minerva in The Life I Lead (February 11-16). The actor David Tomlinson is best remembered as Mr Banks in Disney’s classic Mary Poppins but his real life was just as fascinating as any of the parts he played.

Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens: Saturday, September 1 (online and by booking form only); Tuesday, September 4 (phone and in person). Public booking opens: Saturday, September 8 (online only); Tuesday, September 11 (phone and in person). 01243 781312; online