1988: The Tent
In 1983 Chichester Festival Theatre had created a temporary studio space to hold a summer festival of performances, called ‘The CFT Tent’ or ‘The Tent’ - a huge yellow and white marquee opposite the Theatre. The project was an evolution of Keith Michell's New Ventures project, which had become too scattered at venues across the city
The Tent had 140 unreserved seats for experimental performances of drama, dance, music, comedy and other events, including Chopped Hamlet (1984), The Spershott Version (1986) and Brian Friel's Translations (1988). It ran alongside main Festival Theatre season, with the intention of attracting younger audiences and offering starring roles to young or ensemble actors from the Main House. Its opening season was such a success that The Tent was re-erected each Spring and taken down every Autumn from 1984-88, eventually leading to the construction of the Minerva Theatre in 1989. Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes worked as assistant director at The Tent at the start of his career in 1987. After he'd successfully directed a late night double-bill, John Gale took a leap of faith and offered him the job of running The Tent in 1988. The following year, Mendes became the first Artistic Director of the new Minerva Theatre.