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Marcia Gay Harden Brian J. Smith

Sweet Bird of Youth

By Tennessee Williams

Festival Theatre



Brian J. Smith is superb and Marcia Gay Harden excels

The Times

Harden’s work grows in quiet masterfulness. Richly rewarding

Evening Standard

1956. A hotel on the Gulf of Mexico. Alexandra del Lago, a fading Hollywood legend, has fled the ridicule that greeted the premiere of her come-back movie. Desperate for anonymity and forgetfulness, she is holed up in a small seaside town.

With her is Chance Wayne - a young hustler, trying to lend his wasted, disreputable life some meaning and now returning home to reclaim his childhood love from her ruthless father, the corrupt politician ‘Boss’ Finley.

In his most searing and personal of plays, Tennessee Williams - one of the greatest writers of the 20th century - examines failed ambition, lost youth and love, and the corruption and bigotry that lurks beneath the American Dream. As the present-day United States faces uncertainty and momentous change, Sweet Bird of Youth is a portrayal of the degradation of American values and the corrosive lure of celebrity.

Jonathan Kent returns to Chichester following his huge success with Gypsy and the Young Chekhov Trilogy to direct this neglected masterpiece, with a stellar cast led by two of America’s leading stage and screen actors.

Celebrated Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Marcia Gay Harden makes her UK theatre debut as Alexandra. Her films include Miller’s Crossing, Pollock and Mystic River. She won a Tony Award for God of Carnage. Brian J. Smith, who plays Chance, reprised his Tony-nominated Broadway role in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in the West End in 2017. He can also currently be seen on screen starring in Netflix’s Sense8.


Festival 2017 pricing information

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booking from 4 March



Jonathan Kent pulls it off in style. Smith is superb, as he was in Williams’s The Glass Menagerie in the West End: his Chance is not malicious, but a dangerous character all the same. And Harden excels in a final scene in which we see not just her decadence, but also the sensual self-control that separates her from Chance.

The Times

Harden’s work grows in quiet masterfulness. Richly rewarding.

Evening Standard

Brian J. Smith captures well the bubbling dismay of a one-time town heart-throb. Harden sleekly exudes the feline air of a spoilt creature toying with her prey.

Daily Telegraph

Harden is excellent as Alexandra. She plays her not as some Sunset Boulevard monster but as a believable woman with a sharp wit, a raucous laugh and a palpable hunger for sex. Smith perfectly captures not only the narcissism of this self-seeking gigolo but his pathos.

The Guardian

Superb. Marcia Gay Harden’s masterful portrayal delivers every nuance of the character’s complex personality along with well timed wit.

Brighton Argus

Builds powerfully and impressively.

Chichester Observer

There's no doubting the power of the play's message and the quality of performance from all involved.

Broadway World

Anthony Ward’s staging is superb. Brian J Smith and Marcia Gay Harden live their roles with total conviction, performances overall are excellent and Jonathan Kent gives his production a frighteningly dramatic conclusion.

British Theatre Guide

Cast & Creatives


  • Marcia.

    Marcia Gay Harden

    Alexandra del Lago
  • Brian J  Smith.

    Brian J. Smith

    Chance Wayne
  • Emma Amos.

    Emma Amos

    Miss Lucy
  • Hester Arden.

    Hester Arden

  • Matthew Barker.

    Matthew Barker

  • Victoria Bewick.

    Victoria Bewick

    Heavenly Finley
  • Alex Bhat

  • Ray Emmet Brown 2.

    Ray Emmet Brown

  • Graham Butler.

    Graham Butler

    Tom Finley Jr.
  • Richard Cordery.

    Richard Cordery

    Boss Finley
  • Ingrid Craigie.

    Ingrid Craigie

    Aunt Nonnie
  • Joy Cruickshank.

    Joy Cruickshank

  • Tim Frances.

    Tim Frances

  • Kurt Kansley.

    Kurt Kansley

    Jackie (Pianist)
  • Rob Ostlere.

    Rob Ostlere

  • Sam Phillips.

    Sam Phillips

  • Daniel Tuite.

    Daniel Tuite

    The Heckler
  • Ewart James Walters.

    Ewart James Walters


Creative team

Jonathan Kent


Anthony Ward


Mark Henderson

Lighting Designer

Debbie Wiseman


Paul Groothuis

Sound Designer

Andrzej Goulding

Video Designer

Charlotte Sutton CDG

Casting Director

Jim Carnahan

US Casting

Floriana Dezou

Assistant Director

Paul Benzing

Fight Director


Running Time
2 hrs and 45 mins including the interval