News: Chichester Festival 2023 to include Eileen Atkins, Samuel Barnett, Carly Mercedes Dyer and Lia Williams

Chichester Festival Theatre’s Festival 2023 – the final season programmed by outgoing Artistic Director Daniel Evans – has been announced by Daniel and Executive Director Kathy Bourne.


28 April – 20 May, Festival Theatre

The roaring twenties. A world in flux. The magnetic Florence Lancaster draws people to her like moths to a flame. But when her son Nicky arrives home from Paris with an unexpected fiancée and a secret, it sets off a chain of events which threatens to pull them all into a maelstrom.

Noël Coward’s brilliantly witty and stinging portrait of the darkness beneath the glittering surface of the Jazz Age is as vivid today as when it premiered, causing a sensation and catapulting its young writer to his first great success.

Daniel Raggett, nominee for the 2022 Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award, directs this new production in which Florence and Nicky Lancaster are played by mother and son, Lia Williams and Joshua James.

Lia Williams’s multi award-winning roles include Wallis Simpson in The Crown, Dr Cooper in His Dark Materials, and on stage Mary Stuart (Almeida & West End) and John Gabriel Borkman (The Bridge). Her critically-acclaimed production of Doubt was seen at Chichester last year.

Joshua James returns to the Festival Theatre where he appeared in the Young Chekhov trilogy as Nikolai in Platonov and Konstantin in The Seagull (for which he was nominated for an Ian Charleson Award), both also at the National Theatre.

The cast also include Priyanga Burford as Helen; her work includes Consent (National Theatre), The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare’s Globe), and TV’s Industry, Innocent and Press.

The Vortex will have set design by Joanna Scotcher, costume design by Evie Gurney, lighting design by Zoe Spurr, music and sound design by Giles Thomas, and casting by Lotte Hines CDG.

4000 MILES

4 May – 10 June, Minerva Theatre

Late one night, 21-year-old Leo arrives without warning at his grandmother’s Manhattan apartment – the furthest point on a momentous bike ride across America. Vera is 91 and lives alone, her independence undimmed by the challenges of modern living. Baffled by each other at first, this odd couple slowly edge across the distance between them.

Amy Herzog’s award-winning drama – named Time magazine’s best play of 2012 – is a warm, wry and compassionate story about love, loss, memory and moving on.

Eileen Atkins makes a long-awaited return to Chichester as Vera. One of the UK’s most distinguished actors, last seen here in Vita and Virginia in 1992, her many screen roles include her BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning role in Cranford, Doc Martin and The Crown.

Sebastian Croft makes his CFT debut as Leo; he is best known for Netflix’s Heartstopper and Horrible Histories: The Movie for which he received a children’s BAFTA nomination. This year he will lead Amazon’s How To Date Billy Walsh. His theatre work includes Trevor Nunn’s production of King John (Rose Theatre).

The cast is completed by Nell Barlow, named a BAFTA Breakthrough Talent in 2022 and BIFA Best Newcomer 2021 for Sweetheart; and Elizabeth Chu (Lesbian Space Crime at Soho Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing UK tour).

Director Richard Eyre returns to Chichester following The Stepmother (2017) and 8 Hotels (2019). Formerly Director of the National Theatre, his recent films include The Children Act and Allelujah.

4000 Miles will have set and costume design by Peter McKintosh, lighting design by Peter Mumford, sound design by John Leonard, and casting by Ginny Schiller CDG.


3 – 24 June, Festival Theatre

A surreal carnival. And a group of people who have one thing in common: they want to assassinate the President of the United States.

Some succeed, some fail. But there’s a prize for them all: a place in the history books.

John Wilkes Booth. Lee Harvey Oswald. Leon Czolgosz. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. John Hinckley. Charles Guiteau. Sara Jane Moore. Giuseppe Zangara. Samuel Byck. Men and women whose fervour took them to the very edge.

Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Tony Award-winning biting musical comedy takes us on a daring, time-bending journey through American history.

Director Polly Findlay makes her CFT debut. Her recent productions include White Noise and A Number (Bridge Theatre), Beginning and Middle (National Theatre) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Donmar Warehouse).

The cast includes Amy Booth-Steel (Tammy Faye, The Magician’s Elephant) as Moore, Luke Brady (The Prince of Egypt, Sweeney Todd Festival 2011) as Zangara, Carly Mercedes Dyer (Olivier Award nominee and WhatsOnStage Award winner for Anything Goes) as Fromme, Harry Hepple (Hamilton, Follies) as Guiteau, Nick Holder (The Threepenny Opera, London Road) as Byck, Danny Mac (Sunset Boulevard, Pretty Woman The Musical) as Booth, Sam Oladeinde (Come From Away, A Christmas Carol) as Czolgosz and Jack Shalloo (Girl From The North Country, Groundhog Day) as Hinckley.

The designer will be Lizzie Clachan, and the choreographer, Neil Bettles; musical supervisor Richard John, musical director Jo Cichonska, lighting designer Richard Howell, sound designer Gregory Clarke, video designer Akhila Krishnan, fight director Kate Waters, and casting directors Charlotte Sutton CDG and Christopher Worrall.


16 June – 8 July, Minerva Theatre Press night: Wednesday 21 June

Playwright Adrienne Kennedy impulsively leaves New York for London with her young son, intent on adapting John Lennon’s book ‘In His Own Write’ for the stage.

In the heady atmosphere of the Swinging ‘60s, she finds herself rubbing shoulders with a dizzying array of celebrities, including all four Beatles. And when her idols, Laurence Olivier – director of the National Theatre – and his influential literary manager Kenneth Tynan, along with actor Victor Spinetti, promise to produce her play, it seems like a dream come true. But slowly the stars seem to align in a different way.

Adrienne Kennedy’s autobiographical play – told in the form of a one-act, near-monologue to her son Adam – is a mesmerising and disquieting tale of a young Black woman’s betrayal at the hands of the establishment.

Diyan Zora, winner of the 2021 Genesis Futures Award, directs.

The creative team will include designer Anisha Fields and sound designer George Dennis; the casting director is Lotte Hines CDG.


10 July – 3 September, Festival Theatre

Austria, 1938. Free-spirited nun Maria is sent away from her abbey to become governess to the widowed Captain von Trapp’s seven children. She brings music and laughter back to his unfeeling household, but the future holds more joy and jeopardy than she ever dreamed possible.

This brand-new production of the original stage musical is directed by Adam Penford, Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse, where his productions include Piaf and The Madness of George III; and designed by Robert Jones (Murder on the Orient Express, The Unfriend, Oklahoma!).

Gina Beck, whose performance as Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific in 2021 was also acclaimed in London and on a UK tour, returns to play Maria.

The choreographer will be Lizzi Gee; the musical supervisor, Gareth Valentine; musical director Matt Samer; original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett; orchestral adaptation by Larry Blank; lighting designer, Johanna Town; sound designer, Paul Groothuis; casting director Natalie Gallacher CDG for Pippa Ailion Casting; and children’s casting director Verity Naughton CDG.


24 July – 26 August, Minerva Theatre

Before the Spice Girls, Sugababes and The Saturdays…

It’s the 1970s and feminism is on the rise. Fed up with the male-dominated entertainment industry, Anna, Dee and Q take the future into their own hands and form a rock band – the ironically named ‘Little Ladies’. And so begins the musical helter-skelter ride of a lifetime. Can principles and ambition co-exist? And can their friendship survive in the dog-eat-dog world of rock?

With a book by Chloë Moss and original songs from the ground-breaking TV series by Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay, this punchy new musical is a rousing, riotous rollercoaster of woman power!

Dominic Cooke, former Artistic Director of the Royal Court, directs; his recent work

includes Good (West End), his multi award-winning production of Sondheim’s Follies (National Theatre), and on screen, The Courier.

Carly Bawden, who appeared in CFT’s Concert in the Park in 2021 and whose theatre credits include Julie Jordan in Carousel (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Romantics Anonymous (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), (National Theatre) and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Sheffield Crucible), plays Anna. Zizi Strallen returns to Chichester (The Music Man Festival 2008) to play Q; Her West End appearances include the title role in Mary Poppins (for which she received an Olivier Award nomination) and the NT’s Follies.

The cast also includes Samuel Barnett, whose stage credits include Olivier and Tony- nominated roles in The History Boys (also on film) and Twelfth Night; and on screen, The Lady in the Van and Twenty Twelve; Tamsin Carroll (Barnum Festival 2013; 2:22, Hex and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in the West End); and Fred Haig (Tammy Faye, A Christmas Carol, The Courier).

Rock Follies will have set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Kinnetia Isidore, choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, musical supervision and arrangements by Nigel Lilley, musical direction by Toby Higgins, lighting design by Paule Constable, and casting by Pippa Ailion CDG and Natalie Gallacher CDG.


1 – 30 September, Minerva Theatre

Jacq and Kas’s boutique restaurant has gone bust, and telling their oldest friends Adaego and her rich husband Tobin that his investment is toast is only the start of the evening. Cash, class, identity and infidelity are all on the menu. As the last of the expensive wine flows, a dangerous drinking game reveals long-hidden truths and provokes an unspeakable dare.

This explosive, savagely funny first play by Deborah Frances-White, comedian, screenwriter and host of the global hit podcast The Guilty Feminist, brilliantly skewers the contradictions of contemporary society, and the shifting sands of power and sexual politics.

Emma Butler was formerly resident director at the Almeida Theatre; her directing credits include Camelot (London Palladium), Hole (Jermyn Street Theatre) and Echoes (UK and international tour).

The cast includes Alexandra Roach (Utopia, No Offence, The Light in the Hall), Greg Wise (The Crown, Sense and Sensibility, A Private War) and Susan Wokoma (Enola Holmes, Cheaters, Chewing Gum).

The designer is Frankie Bradshaw; lighting designer, Ryan Day; and casting director Lotte Hines CDG.


22 – 30 September, Festival Theatre

Is Quiz:

  1. A provocative re-examination of the conviction of Charles Ingram, ‘the Coughing Major’, his wife Diana and accomplices, for duping the world’s most popular TV quiz show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, out of £1,000,000?
  2. Another chance to see James Graham’s smash-hit comedy, which premiered at Chichester in 2017 before transferring to the West End, being nominated for two Olivier Awards and becoming a hit TV drama?
  3. The opportunity to see Rory Bremner, Britain’s top satirical impressionist, playing Chris Tarrant?
  4. A highly entertaining, razor-sharp analysis of the 21st century’s dangerous new attitude to truth and lies?

Prepare to cast your vote for the ultimate 50:50: guilty or not guilty?

This revised version of James Graham’s celebrated comedy is directed by Daniel Evans and Seán Linnen and opens a brand-new UK tour at Chichester. Graham’s multi award-winning plays also include Best of Enemies, This House, Ink and the TV series Sherwood.

Quiz is designed by Robert Jones, with lighting design by Ryan Day, music and sound design by Ben and Max Ringham, video design by Tim Reid and casting by Ginny Schiller CDG.

Following its opening at Chichester, the production will tour to Newcastle Theatre Royal, Glasgow King’s Theatre, Cardiff New Theatre, Salford Lowry Theatre, Norwich Theatre Royal, Bromley Churchill Theatre, Canterbury Marlowe Theatre, Bath Theatre Royal and Birmingham Alexandra Theatre. Dates and details at


6 – 28 October, Festival Theatre (Octagon Theatre, Bolton: 8 – 30 September; Rose Theatre, Kingston: 31 October – 11 November)

Every man’s got somebody that he loves, heh? But sometimes… there’s too much. You know? There’s too much and it goes where it mustn’t.

On the Brooklyn waterfront, where the fierce passions of ancestral Sicily linger, the orphaned Catherine falls for her handsome, newly arrived cousin Rodolfo – an illegal immigrant. Their romance is encouraged by her aunt Beatrice but viewed with revulsion by her uncle, Eddie Carbone, who harbours an unspoken desire. As tensions rise, their story spins inexorably beyond control.

Arthur Miller’s visceral and compelling drama is a timeless masterpiece.

This new co-production with Headlong, Octagon Theatre Bolton and Rose Theatre is directed by Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, whose recent work includes Paradise Now! (Bush Theatre).

At Chichester, the production is sponsored by The Portsmouth Grammar School.


13 October – 4 November, Minerva Theatre

MP Arthur Gill is one of Westminster’s rising stars. Still in his 30s, he’s just become the Secretary of State for Justice, assuming the role of Lord Chancellor too; and with a leadership race on the horizon, he’s a favourite to be the next Prime Minister.

But there’s a problem. An inquiry headed by Lady Justice Deborah Wingate is on the brink of publishing its findings about a public health disaster: a scandal that happened on Gill’s watch when he was environment minister. As leaks multiply and the waters grow murkier, how far will he go to hide his past and protect his future?

The Inquiry is a gripping drama about the pernicious collision between politics, justice and ambition.

Harry Davies is a writer and an investigative reporter for The Guardian; this is his first play.

Joanna Bowman (Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads, Festival 2022) directs.

The Inquiry will be designed by Max Jones; the casting director is Charlotte Sutton CDG.

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