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Chichester Festival Theatre: Artistic Director Daniel Evans explains why the joy and laughter of Alan Bennett’s play Forty Years On is perfect to open the Festival

- April 3, 2017

CFT17_Forty-Years-On_Richard-Wilson

Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2017 season kicks off this month with a new production of Alan Bennett’s first play, Forty Years On, set in a school on the South Downs on the day the headmaster retires. Chichester’s new Artistic Director Daniel Evans is directing the production: why has he chosen this particular play?

“There are several reasons for doing Forty Years On”, says Daniel. “The first is that Alan Bennett is one of our most beloved living playwrights. The second is that the play requires us to work with a large group of young people from our community.

Alan-Bennett-photo-copyright-Anthony-Crolla

“The third reason is that the play contains much joy and laughter, and it was important that we began our Festival season at Chichester with a proper sense of joy, and that we were inviting our audience to have a great time. 

“Finally, thematically the play is incredibly interesting because it’s about an England at a crossroads. It was written in 1968 at a time of great social change, and I think we’re also at a time now of great social change. The play looks at an England which is being lost while also looking towards the future.

A place where everyone in this region, from all kinds of backgrounds, feels welcome

“The play is still very, very funny and at the same time very poignant”, Daniel reflects. “More than any other playwright I can think of, Alan Bennett somehow manages to put both those things together at the same time – you can be laughing through your tears.

“We have a great actor in the leading role: Richard Wilson. People know him most famously, of course, as Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave. He is a comedy genius.”
Forty Years On is the first of a wealth of contrasting plays and musicals which audiences can look forward to during Festival 2017.

“As a complement to the Alan Bennett, we have a musical on in the Minerva called Caroline, Or Change, about a black maid living with a Jewish family in Louisiana in 1963,” says Daniel. “It’s a political and very moving piece with wonderful music.

“If [Executive Director] Rachel Tackley and I had just one hope for our first season, it would be that Chichester Festival Theatre will be a place where everyone in this region, from all kinds of backgrounds and creeds, feels welcome.”

For full details and tickets for Festival 2017, visit cft.org.uk.


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