50 Facts for our 50th Anniversary
Did you know?
Fact 1. Both Duran Duran and Depeche Mode performed live on the Festival Stage in 1981
Fact 2. 2012's Yes, Prime Minister's Graham Seed had his first official acting job for Festival 1972
Fact 3. When the Festival Theatre opened in 1962, it was Britain's first modern thrust stage theatre
Fact 4. Jamie Parker (Festival 2011's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) met his wife, Deborah Crowe, when they both performed in Festival 2003's The Gondoliers
Fact 5. Ruth MacKenzie, the Director of the Cultural Olympiad, was Artistic Director of this Theatre (along with Martin Duncan and Steven Pimlott) from 2003 - 2005
Fact 6. Chichester Theatre, the Chichester Festival Theatre for the South of England, the Wessex Theatre, Everyman's Theatre Chichester, Everyman's Festival Theatre Chichester or Southern England's Drama Theatre were all considered as names before Chichester Festival Theatre was chosen; a name that says everything in three words
Fact 7. The first musical to ever be performed in the Festival Theatre was Peter Ustinov's R Loves J in 1973.
Fact 8. No audience member is further than 65 feet away from the thrust stage in the Festival Theatre
Fact 9. Chichester Festival Theatre was built for a total of £105,000 in 1962; today, this could buy you a one bedroom flat in Chichester...
Fact 10. On average, Front of House sell between 350 and 480 ice creams each interval for a Festival Theatre production.
Fact 11. The greatest distance a person has travelled to come to the Theatre is 11, 757 miles from New Zealand; this is equivalent to 135 million theatre tickets laid end to end.
Fact12. Cathleen Nesbitt is the oldest actress to have appeared on the Festival Theatre stage; she performed in Festival 1978's The Aspern Papers aged 90 years old.
Fact 13. Between them, our six longest serving staff members have worked at the Theatre for the grand total of 230 years and counting…
Fact 14. We currently have over 1,500 props in storage; the largest is a chandelier, the smallest is an ice cube, the oldest is a 100 year old gramaphone and the most common are suitcases.
Fact 15. Costume material from past productions has been used to make cushion covers for Theatre on the Fly including Richard Griffiths' Henry VIII outfit from 1998's Katherine Howard.
Fact 16. Our most popular interval drink is a glass of white wine; on a summers evening with a full house, the Festival Theatre bars alone can go through, on average, 40 - 50 bottles.
Fact 17. Derek Jacobi returns for his seventh performance on the Festival Theatre stage this year as Captain Shotover in Heartbreak House; did you know that he was Associate Director of the Theatre in 1995 and 1996?
Fact 18. George Bernard Shaw is the second most produced playwright at Chichester Festival Theatre after Shakespeare.
Fact 19. The Festival Theatre was built in 15 months; from May 1961 and opening on 3 July 1962.
Fact 20. Derek Jacobi trained for a year in the 1950s to be an Olympic swimmer.
Fact 21. Nearly all of the wigs we use are made of real hair. Mostly human (Asian and European). Also Yak hair is used.
Fact 22. In 2001, Chichester Festival Theatre came within one hour of going bust, saved at the last moment by an unexpected refund of VAT.
Fact 23. During our busiest time, our Wardrobe Department get through 10 litres of washing liquid a week and one poor person will have done 672 hours of ironing throughout the season!
Fact 24. To raise money to build the Festival Theatre, not only was a racehorse one of the original raffle prizes, but a local builder donated a plot of land as an auction prize and built a house for the winner – that’s community spirit for you!
Fact 25. Sir Robert Stephens and Dame Maggie Smith once appeared together in Private Lives. Now, their son Toby Stephens and his wife Anna-Louise Plowman, will appear in Festival 2012's final production of the same play.
Fact 26. This season there were 115 lights in our Festival Theatre Rig (currently 340 for Antony and Cleopatra), compared with around 45 lights in the Rig 50 years ago. The total weight of the lights is 2154Kg which equals the weight of 3 ½ Minis!
Fact 27. Toby Stephens began his career at Chichester Festival Theatre as a stagehand for 'The Tent' in 1988.
Fact 28. There are 134 photographs hanging throughout the Theatre from past productions.
Fact 29. Craig Revel Horwood, well known for Strictly Come Dancing, choreographed several shows here including; On The Razzle, Pal Joey and Arcadia and My One and Only.
Fact 30. Since pic ’n’ mix was introduced in 2007, we have sold over 10,000 tubs.
Fact 31. Chichester Festival Youth Theatre has been running for 27 years, starting in 1985.
Fact 32. Our props store was Chichester's very first purpose built cinema, the Olympia Electric Theatre (open 1911- 1922 when it burnt down). It then became a bus station which explains the very large doors!
Fact 33. In 1984 a young Stephen Fry (aged 26) played his first professional part as Tempest in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On.
Fact 34. In July 1964, hundreds of people camped outside the Theatre to see Laurence Olivier in Othello, including a student from Amsterdam who queued for 4 days. After seeing how many people were waiting, Olivier personally delivered two cases of champagne to them.
Fact 35. 212 productions have been staged in the Festival Theatre since it opened in 1962.
Fact 36. On 12 May 1971 at a Gala Performance with Princess Margaret, Sussex Police informed the General Manager that there was a bomb in the Festival Theatre. The audience were evacuated, but it turned out to be a false alarm.
Fact 37. In 1989 and 1991 the Minerva Theatre has its own Artistic Directors - Sam Mendes and Caroline Sharman.
Fact 38. Around 615 children a year come to the Stephen Pimlott Building for Holiday Activities.
Fact 39. We don't have duplicates of costumes meaning that between a matinee and an evening performance costumes have to be washed, dried and ironed, and any delicates hand washed. Costumes that can't be washed are dried in hot boxes and ironed/ steamed. There is just over an hour to do this before the dressers need to reset the show.
Fact 40. The largest number of performers we had in a single season was in 1995 with 121 people in a total of six productions.
Fact 41. All lights and speakers hanging in the roof of the Festival Theatre are manually pulled up on ropes. This involves staff crawling around on catwalks above pulling everything up one by one.
Fact 42. The oldest costume we have in our store is one worn by Peter Ustinov in The Unknown Soldier and His Wife (1968).
Fact 43. In 2008 60 Chichester Festival Youth Theatre performers took over the 42 acre Rolls-Royce plant at Goodwood for a production of Toad of Toad Hall.
Fact 44. Our Executive Director Alan Finch and Artistic Director Jonathan Church had worked together at Nottingham Playhouse before Chichester Festival Theatre.
Fact 45. Author Kate Mosse (who wrote our 50th Anniversary book) began her working life as an Administrative Director for Chichester Festival Theatre.
Fact 46. Our Youth Theatre Director Dale Rooks started in 1996 as the Youth Theatre Assistant Director. In 2002 she was promoted and is now the longest serving Youth Theatre Director.
Fact 47. We have had a total of 327 productions since 1962 - 212 in the Festival Theatre and 115 in the Minerva Theatre.
Fact 48. There were an incredible 73 costume changes in A Marvellous Year for Plums, the fastest of which was 27 seconds long out of one complete suit into another.
Fact 49. Since 1990, designer Simon Higlett has designed 30 Festival Theatre productions including King Lear, Yes, Prime Minister and Singin' in the Rain, and has also designed sets for the Youth Theatre including The Snow Queen and A Christmas Carol.
Fact 50. A full made to measure wig will take about a week of intensive work to make. The process involved the hairs being individually knotted into the lace foundation.