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.