Jonathan Church and Alan Finch announce Chichester Festival’s 2015 season including Lenny Henry in Educating Rita and Michael Ball in Mack & Mabel.

Chichester Festival 2015 marks the first full season since its major refurbishment with an ambitious programme of shows that use the scope of the building to its fullest potential.
Highlights include:

  • Young Chekhov, a major season of the dramatist’s early work, Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull, in versions by David Hare, directed by Jonathan Kent, featuring Anna Chancellor, James McArdle and Samuel West
  • Two major musicals feature in the Festival Theatre: Michael Ball returns to Chichester in Mack & Mabel and a new stage version of A Damsel in Distress
  • Lenny Henry makes his Chichester debut in Educating Rita
  • The Festival Theatre stage will be transformed into a river for Alan Ayckbourn’s Way Upstream, featuring Sarah Parish
  • A sumptuous revival of Jean Anouilh’s The Rehearsal will be directed by Jeremy Sams
  • The themes of war, conflict and freedom of speech are explored in two productions: Frank McGuinness’s award-winning drama, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me and W. Somerset Maugham’s For Services Rendered
  • Chichester Festival Youth Theatre marks its 30th anniversary with the world premiere of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild

WAY UPSTREAM by Alan Ayckbourn
Director: Nadia Fall
23 April 2015 – 16 May 2015 , Festival Theatre
Four old friends, one cruising boat, two weeks off work, and the perfect setting of the beautiful River Orb. What could possibly go wrong? This hilarious expose of the murky depths that lurk beneath the surfaces of friendship, love, desire and power is vintage Ayckbourn.
Nadia Fall makes her directorial debut at Chichester having recently directed Dara and Home for the National Theatre, and Hobson’s Choiceat Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Sarah Parish also makes her Chichester debut as June. Her television credits include W1A, Mistresses and Cutting It.
THE REHEARSAL by Jean Anouilh
Translated by Jeremy Sams
Director: Jeremy Sams
8 May 2015 – 6 June 2015, Minerva Theatre
The Count, better known as Tiger, is planning another of his spectacular parties, including an evening of amateur dramatics. But as soon as rehearsals begin, it’s clear that his play will unleash just as much passion, shock and intrigue off stage as it will on. This clever comedy exposes the truths that people conceal and the secret roles that they really want to play.
Jeremy Sams directs the production, having also provided the celebrated translation. His directing credits include The Sound of Music in the West End, Noises Off at the National Theatre and The Water Babies at Chichester.
A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS
Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson
Based on the novel by P.G.Wodehouse and the play by P.G.Wodehouse and Ian Hay
Director: Rob Ashford
30 May 2015 – 27 June 2015 , Festival Theatre
Bring together a world-weary American composer, a beautiful and irrepressible English socialite, a fierce aunt, and lots of other delightfully eccentric characters and the stage is set for a charming musical, based on a novel by P.G.Wodehouse with songs by George and Ira Gershwin.
This new stage musical is directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford whose credits include Shrek The Musical, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Scarlett Johansson, and Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston.
EDUCATING RITA by Willy Russell
Director: Michael Buffong
18 June 2015 – 25 July 2015 , Minerva Theatre
English lecturer Frank has never met anyone like plain-speaking Rita – until the Open University brings them together. Willy Russell’s touching and enduring comedy has delighted audiences around the world, and celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
Actor, broadcaster and comedian Lenny Henry makes his Chichester debut as Frank. His theatre credits include The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre and award-winning performances in West End productions of Fences and Othello.
Also making her Chichester debut is Lashana Lynch whose recent credits include Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet at The Shed (National Theatre), BBC 1’s Death in Paradise and BBC 3’s Crims.
The production is directed by Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company, whose recent credits include All My Sons andMoon on a Rainbow Shawl.
MACK & MABEL
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman Book by Michael Stewart
Book revised by Francine Pascal
Director: Jonathan Church
13 July 2015 – 5 September 2015 , Festival Theatre
This musical comedy is a poignant love story and a riveting tribute to the silent movie era, based on the true romance between Hollywood legends Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand. It received eight Tony Award nominations when it opened on Broadway in 1974.
Michael Ball plays Mack Sennett. His other recent credits include his Olivier Award-winning performance in Chichester’s production ofSweeney Todd (also West End), the BBC drama That Day We Sang and the West End production of Hairspray.
Director Jonathan Church’s most recent musical hit is the award-winning Singin’ in the Rain, which continues its international tour in 2015. His other credits include Festival 2014’s Taken at Midnight (currently running in the West End) and Amadeus, as well as The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Choreography is by Stephen Mear, whose credits include Festival 2014’s Amadeus and Gypsy.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED by W. Somerset Maugham
Director: Howard Davies
31 July 2015 – 5 September 2015 , Minerva Theatre
Written in 1932, this engrossing drama confronts the damaging consequences of war, loss and trauma for one ordinary English family.
Director Howard Davies’s many acclaimed productions for the RSC, the National Theatre, in the West End and on Broadway have garnered him many awards. In 2009 he made his Chichester debut with The House of Special Purpose.

RUNNING WILD 
by Michael Morpurgo
in a new adaptation by Samuel Adamson
Director: Dale Rooks
2 August 2015 – 16 August, Cass Sculpture Foundation
A touching and thrilling story of the devastating Boxing Day tsunami, and a young boy’s remarkable jungle adventures afterwards.   This tale of healing and the power of nature is based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, in a new adaptation by Samuel Adamson, directed by Dale Rooks, with puppetry by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié.
The promenade production by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre will be staged in the evocative landscape of Cass Sculpture Foundation, against the spectacular backdrop of monumental sculptures and dramatic settings.
SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME by Frank McGuinness
Director: Michael Attenborough
10 September 2015 – 10 October 2015, Minerva Theatre
Based on the experiences of those taken hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s, this drama features an American doctor, an Irish journalist and an English academic – three men with little in common who somehow forge bonds that testify to the power of the human spirit.
Director Michael Attenborough makes his Chichester debut. Whilst Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, his award-winning productions included Measure for Measure and The Knot of the Heart.  David Haig returns to Chichester following his appearance in Festival 2014’s highly acclaimed Pressure, which he also wrote.
YOUNG CHEKHOV: THE BIRTH OF A GENIUS
PLATONOV, IVANOV and THE SEAGULL by Anton Chekhov
in versions by David Hare
Director: Jonathan Kent
28 September 2015 – 14 November 2015, Festival Theatre
Three plays written when Anton Chekhov was young offer a new perspective on this undisputed master of modern drama. With sunbursts of youthful anger and romanticism, they reveal a very different playwright from the one known through his mature, more familiar work.
Acclaimed playwright David Hare has written these versions.
Anna Chancellor, last at Chichester in Private Lives and South Downs/The Browning Version (also West End), is confirmed to play Arkadina in The Seagull, with her other role to be announced.
James McArdle, whose credits include The James Plays at the Edinburgh Festival and National Theatre, plays the title role in Platonov and Lvov in Ivanov.
Samuel West, last seen at Chichester in Enron and Doctor Faustus, plays the title role in Ivanov and Trigorin in The Seagull.
Director Jonathan Kent returns to Chichester following his acclaimed Festival 2014 production of Gypsy which transfers to London in 2015.