1983: A Patriot for Me controversy

Eyebrows were raised when the 1983 season was announced, due to the opening production: John Osborne's A Patriot for Me.

Starring Alan Bates, it was based on a true story of homosexuality and blackmail in the years prior to The Great War, featuring a Drag Ball scene. It had infamously been refused a public licence when it was first staged at the Royal Court in 1965 and had not been performed since. Press coverage noted the apparently surprising inclusion in CFT's billing: "a whiff of scandal is drifting through the prim cathedral city of Chichester. After years of living in the deep, safe recesses of the past dressing itself up in annual star-invested revivals of old favourites, Chichester Festival Theatre is about to meet up with the theatrical present" (Guardian).

The production was boycotted by founder Leslie Evershed-Martin - the first he had missed since the Theatre's conception. John Gale [newly appointed Executive Director] remembers "Patrick [Garland, Artistic Director] phoned me and said: 'I have told the Board if I can't do the play, I shall resign'. I said: 'That's wonderful Patrick because if you resign, I'll have to resign. This is the shortest job I have ever had in my life!"

Despite the controversy, the production was a resounding success, transferring to London and then to America. Gale remembers it as one of his favourite ever productions at Chichester.

'Theatre founder may boycott opening play' Chichester Observer, Thursday 24 March 1983

Programme for A Patriot For Me, 1983

Press cuttings about A Patriot For Me 1983