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Chichester Festival Theatre
The Festival Theatre in March 2010.
Chichester Festival Theatre is located in Chichester city centre
Chichester Festival Theatre
Chichester Festival Theatre
Location of the Festival Theatre within Chichester
AddressOaklands Park
Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP
Coordinates50°50′35″N 0°46′39″W / 50.843048°N 0.777390°W / 50.843048; -0.777390
DesignationGrade II* listed
  • Festival Theatre: 1206
  • Minerva Theatre: 283
Opened1962 (1962)
ArchitectPhilip Powell and Hidalgo Moya

Chichester Festival Theatre is a theatre and Grade II* listed building situated in Oaklands Park in the city of Chichester, West Sussex, England.[1] Designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, it was opened by its founder Leslie Evershed-Martin in 1962. The smaller and more intimate Minerva Theatre was built nearby in 1989.

The inaugural Artistic Director was Sir Laurence Olivier, and it was at Chichester that the first National Theatre company was formed. Chichester's productions would transfer to the National Theatre's base at the Old Vic in London. The opening productions[2] in 1962 were: The Chances by John Fletcher (first production 1638) which opened on 3 July; The Broken Heart (1633), by John Ford, opened 9 July; Uncle Vanya (1896), by Anton Chekov, opened 16 July. Among the actors[3] in the opening season were: Lewis Casson, Fay Compton, Joan Greenwood, Rosemary Harris, Kathleen Harrison, Keith Michell, André Morell, John Neville, Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright, Michael Redgrave, Athene Seyler, Sybil Thorndike and Peter Woodthorpe.

The Festival Season usually runs from April to October and includes productions from classics to contemporary writing and musicals, reaching an audience of 230,000. Productions originated at Chichester frequently transfer to London or tour nationally and internationally.

A range of additional events is designed to add to the experience of visiting the theatre, including performances, cabarets, family days, tours and talks. Through the winter months, the Theatre presents touring productions and a Christmas show mounted by Chichester Festival Youth Theatre. The Theatre runs a large and active Learning, Education and Participation programme for all ages; its Youth Theatre is one of the largest in the country, with over 800 members.

The Theatre is a registered charity and is chaired by Mark Foster. Justin Audibert has been the artistic director since April 2023, sharing the leadership of the theatre with Executive Director Kathy Bourne.[4]


Leslie Evershed-Martin drew parallels between Chichester and the Canadian city of Stratford, Ontario and concluded that Chichester could sustain a theatre similar to the Stratford Festival.[5] Evershed-Martin contacted Laurence Olivier via Tyrone Guthrie and offered him directorship of the new theatre.[5] Olivier directed the theatre until 1966, when John Clements took over.[6]

Artistic directors

Laurence Olivier, first director of the Chichester Festival Theatre, in 1961

See also


  1. ^ Historic England. "Chichester Festival Theatre (1323693)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  2. ^ Festival - The Stage is Set, 1962
  3. ^ Festival - The Stage is Set, 1962
  4. ^ Wiegand, Chris (19 January 2023). "Chichester Festival theatre appoints Justin Audibert as new artistic director". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  5. ^ a b Billington, Michael (29 May 2014). "Olivier, Laurence Kerr, Baron Olivier". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38623. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Taylor, John Russell (1970). The Penguin Dictionary of the Theatre (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-14-051033-1.
  7. ^ a b "Patrick Garland to be remembered at Chichester Cathedral". Chichester Observer. 7 June 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Rudman, Michael Edward". Who's Who. A & C Black. 2019. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U33398. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  9. ^ Brown, Mark (2 December 2015). "Daniel Evans chosen to succeed Jonathan Church as artistic director at Chichester". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  10. ^ "Justin Audibert appointed as our next Artistic Director". Chichester Festival Theatre. 22 June 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.

Further reading