Barnum and Brecht for a summer of drama

Barnum.
Barnum.

Drama fans in Beds, Herts and Bucks, who enjoy migrating south during the summer, are in for a treat from Chichester Festival Theatre which is reviving the spectacular circus stage show Barnum along with a shorter, but still quality, list of productions for its 2013 festival programme.

The venue, which attracts audiences from throughout the south, is undergoing extensive restoration, but that hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm or imagination. A new temporary theatre has been built in its grounds which will showcase two ambitious productions - Barum and Tim Firth’s comedy, Neville’s Island - with the smaller Minerva stage taking the remaining shows.

The season kicks off with director Richard Eyre’s take on the classic Broadway musical, The Pajama Game.

Love is in the air at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory as handsome new superintendent Sid Sorokin falls head-over-heels for firebrand union rep Babe Williams. But when the employees are refused a raise, sparks fly and the couple find themselves deliciously at odds. Will love, eventually, conquer all in this delightful

romantic comedy?

The Pajama Game is at the Minerva Theatre from 22 April – 8 June.

Also in the season: Cameron Mackintosh decamps from London for his reworked revival of the musical Barnum with Broadway entertainer Christopher Fitzgerald in the title role and Timothy Sheader directing.

Neville’s Island is an hilarious comedy from one of its modern masters. Four out-of-condition, middle-aged businessmen, sent off on a team-building exercise,ucceed in becoming the first people ever to get shipwrecked on an island in the Lake District. What should have been a bonding process turns into a muddy, bloody fight for survival amidst a carnival of recrimination, French cricket and sausages.

There is the return of the critically acclaimed production The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht (one of the most powerful and moving dramas I’ve ever seen) which was the undoubted hit of Festival 2012 and will be transferring to the West End at the end of the summer.

Directed by Chichester’s artistic director, Jonathan Church, the production will once again feature Henry Goodman reprising his award-winning performance in the title role. Set in Chicago in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the play is a powerful and sharp-witted parable of the rise of Hitler.

There’s the world premiere of David Edgar’s political drama, If Only, which takes a witty and astute look at the world of coalition government, and the season ends with Another Country, Julian Mitchell’s sensitive exploration of sexuality and politics, set against the backdrop of a public school.

For tickets, dates and info go to www.cft.org.uk or contact the box office on 01243 781312. Chichester is just two hours from here and a great place for an overnight or weekend stay. There’s an excellent restaurant at the theatre, competitively priced theatre tickets, and lots for visitors to see and do - as well as enjoy top class theatre!

See you there.

@LBOanne