Chichester Festival Theatre has today announced the programme for its annual summer festival, the second season under artistic director-triumvirate Steven Pimlott, Martin Duncan and Ruth Mackenzie. Following last year’s Venetian theme, this year’s festival, running from 29 April to 25 September 2004, will go “out of this world” with eight new productions (including two world premieres and two UK premieres), performed once again by a resident ensemble of more than 60 actors, directors and other creatives.

In the Festival Theatre

This year’s theme is taken from the opening show in the Festival Theatre, the long-overdue British premiere of Cole Porter’s 1950 musical Out of This World, in which Golden Age Hollywood collides with Ancient Greece when Jupiter falls in love with movie star Helen Vance. The score includes “From This Moment On”, “Where Oh Where” and “I Am Loved”. Directed by Martin Duncan, designed by Francis O’Connor and choreographed by Vanessa Gray, it runs from 29 April to 25 September.

It’s joined in the repertoire, from 8 May to 23 September, by a new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Gale Edwards and designed by Alison Chitty and, from 11 June to 25 September, by a second musical, a new version of Just So, the 1990 piece by British writing team George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (book and lyrics), inspired by the classic children’s stories of Rudyard Kipling.

The final Festival Theatre production will be The Master and Margarita, Edward Kemp’s new adaptation of the satirical novel by Russian Mikhail Bulgakov, running in repertory from 23 July to 24 September. The world premiere stage production will be directed by Steven Pimlott and designed by Alison Chitty.

Bulgakov, whose original plays include The White Guard and Flight, was forced to write the book – about a magician who mystifies the Moscow locals with his show - in secret over the last 15 years of his life. Because of the perceived threat of the content, it wasn’t published until 1967, nearly 30 years after it was written.

In the Minerva Theatre

Meanwhile, in the smaller Minerva Theatre, the 2004 summer festival opens with the world premiere of Helen Cooper’s comedy Three Women and a Piano Tuner, running from 28 May to 3 July (See The Goss, 26 Nov 2003). Having completed her piano concerto after ten years, Ella is intent on getting it performed, but she needs the help of Liz and Beth, with whom there are some old scores to settle first.

It’s joined in the repertoire, from 9 July to 25 September, by Jeremy Sams’ new translation of German dramatist Botho Strauss’ 1989 play Seven Doors. Directed by Martin Duncan, the surreal cabaret of contemporary manners opens with a woman leaving her husband for failing to win a TV quiz.

Following its seasons at London’s Young Vic in May and June (See News, 2 Dec 2003), Martin Crimp’s Cruel and Tender - an international co-production between Chichester, the Young Vic and Wiener Festwochen with Theatre des Bouffes du Nord and Ruhurfestspiele Recklinghausen - comes to Chichester where it runs from 4 August to 4 September. The new version of Sophocles' darkly comic account of the abuses of war, Trachiniae, stars Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave, Intimacy on screen; The Maids, In Flame on stage) and is directed by internationally acclaimed director Luc Bondy.

The season concludes with a new production of Christopher Marlowe’s heaven-and-hell epic Doctor Faustus, running from 8 to 25 September and collectively directed by Duncan, Pimlott, Edward Kemp and Dale Rooks. A promenade performance, it begins at the Minerva then progresses through the streets of the West Sussex city, culminating with a battle at Chichester Cathedral.

- by Terri Paddock