Chichester Festival Theatre’s artistic director-triumvirate of Steven Pimlott, Martin Duncan and Ruth Mackenzie have stepped down after just three years in the job. This summer’s final Festival productions – Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter and Pimlott’s 25-strong premiere of Edward Kemp’s 5/11 - will be the last under the existing regime. A new artistic director (or team) is now being sought to plan programming for the 2006 festival and beyond.

Pimlott, Duncan and Mackenzie succeeded former artistic director Andrew Welch in November 2002 (See News, 24 Jul 2002), having submitted a joint application to Chichester for the two advertised posts of artistic director and chief executive. A spokeswoman for Chichester told at the time that the theatre's board of directors was thrilled to get "three for the price of two" to forge its future.

Over the past three years at the famous festival venue, they’ve staged three successful summer programmes – under the theme of “Venice” in 2003, “Out of this World” in 2004 and this year’s “Con art” – all performed by resident ensembles performing in repertory, which hadn’t featured at Chichester for 20 years previously. Their success has secured CFT the fourth largest grant to any theatre in the UK. With more than £1.5 million a year due from the Arts Council by 2007, Chichester’s allocation is now bettered only by the National, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

Commenting on the triumvirate’s decision to leave, Sally Abbot, South East Director of Arts for Arts Council England said: “We are very sorry to learn of the artistic directors’ decision not to continue beyond their contracts. In the last three years, they have brought their exceptional vision and cutting edge talents to bear on revitalising the Festival with an exciting new style of themed programming and ensemble working. The whole of British theatre has benefited from the breadth of their artistic imagination and the quality of their programming, which has rightly drawn national and international acclaim.”

A theatre spokesperson told that Pimlott, Mackenzie and Duncan had only ever committed to three years and, having achieved all the targets in their initial “Back to the Future” plan, felt that it was time to move on. In a statement, the trio said: “We are thrilled that the Arts Council has been so generous to Chichester, and that we can leave the theatre with such an excellent financial settlement. We do hope everybody will come to see our last two productions, which exemplify the risk and adventure we have tried to deliver to Chichester.”

Prior to CFT, Pimlott had been an RSC associate director, while Duncan and Mackenzie had worked together at Nottingham Playhouse as, respectively, artistic director and executive director. They’d also formed their own production company called Time/Room. Amongst their upcoming independent projects, Pimlott will direct Kevin Elyot’s new version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None at the West End’s Gielgud Theatre in October (See News, 29 Jul 2005).

This year’s “con art”-themed Chichester Festival, which opened on 29 April and continues to 10 September 2005, comprise seven new productions, amongst them, two world premieres, one UK premiere and two new English-language translations (See News, 18 Jan 2005).

- by Terri Paddock