Alex Jennings

The Southbury Child

A new play by Stephen Beresford

Festival Theatre
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The play of the year

Daily Telegraph

A majestic performance by Alex Jennings


A cracking state of the nation piece and a beautiful personal tour de force for Jennings.



Libby Purves, for TheatreCat

Sharp-witted, wilful and frequently drunk, vicar David Highland has kept a grip on his parish through a combination of disordered charm and high-handed determination.

But when his conscience forces him to take a hard line with a parishioner who wants Disney balloons at a family funeral, he finds himself dangerously isolated from public opinion. As his own family begins to fracture, David must face a future that threatens to extinguish not only his position in the town, but everything he stands for.

Stephen Beresford’s very funny new play is a deeply humane exploration of family, faith, tradition and tolerance in a rapidly changing world. His work includes The Last of the Haussmans at the National Theatre, an adaptation of Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander for The Old Vic and the BAFTA-winning film Pride.

Triple Olivier Award-winner Alex Jennings returns to Chichester to lead the cast. The Southbury Child reunites him with Nicholas Hytner who has previously directed him in Hymn and Cocktail SticksCollaboratorsThe Habit of ArtThe Alchemist and The Winter’s Tale (all at the National Theatre) amongst others. His screen work includes The Crown, The Lady in the Van, The Queen, Victoria, A Very English Scandal and Small Axe: Mangrove.

Nicholas Hytner also makes a welcome return to Chichester, where he previously directed The Scarlet Pimpernel (with a cast including Alex Jennings) in 1985. Director of the National Theatre from 2003-2015, he is Co-Founder of the Bridge Theatre.

A co-production with the Bridge Theatre.

This production contains themes that some people may find distressing: please visit Content and Themes for further information.

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Purchase a digital copy of the programme

Our programmes are designed to be the perfect insightful companion to the production. The programme for The Southbury Child includes articles on the challenges facing Church of England parishes today, and the many public figures who are children of the clergy; in addition to poems and prayers, rehearsal photos and biographies of the company and creative team.

By clicking on BUY you will be re-directed to Issuu's website. The purchased programme will be available to read on their website and app. 

Purchasing a digital programme does not include the purchase of a printed programme.


Cast & Creatives

Cast includes

  • Alex Jennings

    David Highland
  • Holly Atkins

    Joy Sampson
  • Josh Finan

    Lee Southbury
  • Jack Greenlees

    Craig Collier
  • Hermione Gulliford

    Janet Oram
  • Jo Herbert

    Susannah Highland
  • Phoebe Nicholls

    Mary Highland
  • Racheal Ofori

    Naomi Highland
  • Sarah Twomey

    Tina Southbury
  • Nick Barclay, Hilary Derrett, Amy Brown, Chris Knight, Lola May


Creative team

Cast List

Nicholas Hytner


Mark Thompson

Set Designer

Yvonne Milnes

Costume Designer

Max Narula

Lighting Designer

George Dennis

Sound Designer

Robert Sterne CDG

Casting Director

Isabel Marr

Assistant Director

Chris Hay

Production Manager

Rosemary Elliott-Dancs

Costume Supervisor

Lily Mollgaard

Props Supervisor

Kate McDowell

Company Stage Manager

Rebecca Maltby

Deputy Stage Manager

Olivia Page

Assistant Stage Manager




Pricing Information

Price bands for an event, organised by showing
Performance description Price Bands
Previews/Press Night£10£10£10£30£34
All Other Performances£10£19£31£40£44
  • Friends Priority Saver: Book the same number of tickets for four or more productions and save 20%. All Saver tickets must be booked and paid for in a single transaction. Only available during Friends Priority Booking period (12-18 March)
  • Friends Single Production Discount: £2 off non-saver tickets
  • Groups 8+ Monday and Tuesday: £30 per ticket
  • Groups 8+ Wednesday - Friday: £5 off each ticket
  • Groups 40+ Wednesday - Friday: £8 off each ticket, plus a £5 ticket for the Group Organiser
  • School and College Groups 10+ Monday - Friday: £8.50 per ticket; one free teacher ticket with every nine paid
  • Over 60s Monday - Thursday: £2 off
  • Full-time students in Higher Education, Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support claimants Monday - Thursday: Half Price
  • Full-time students in Higher Education, Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support claimants Monday - Thursday: Standby from one hour before the performance: £8.50
  • Family tickets (excludes Saturday evenings): Half Price for up to four U16s with every full price paying adult. Discounts applied at the checkout. All tickets must be booked and paid for in a single transaction.
  • Book early for the best prices Prices are guaranteed until Monday 4 April and are then subject to change
  • All venues: Only one reduction applies per ticket, and all discounts are subject to availability and at the discretion of the Box Office.
  • All venues: Discounts do not apply to Previews and Press Nights
  • Festival Theatre: Discounts apply to top three price bands only (apart from Schools and College Groups)
  • Festival Theatre: Some seating areas may not be available for all performances
  • Friends: Up to four discounted tickets per production
  • Access tickets may be available for Access Members Log in to your account to see Access seats
  • £5 Prologue Tickets may be available for 16-30 year olds Log in to your account to see Prologue seats

About the author

The Southbury Child takes as its setting a Church of England vicarage in a town on the South Coast. Its central character is the vicar, David Highland: a man of disordered charm, sharp wit and high-handed determination. His hold on the parish is already shaky - his flaws are all too evident - when his conscience leads him to take a hard line on a parishioner who wants Disney balloons at a family funeral. This instinctive decision leaves him isolated from his family and his community with consequences that are as moving as they are funny.

The Southbury Child takes faith seriously - the playwright is himself a church-goer - though it has a characteristically Anglican sense of humour about the church. Above all, it is a play which gets under the skin of a vivid and fully realised group of people for whom it has intense respect and affection.

Stephen Beresford was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England - although 45 years separates those two events - and served as an altar boy until adolescence made it undignified for him to continue.

He has always been fascinated by the church’s role in society - not least its function as an arterial system for our culture - through liturgy, language, music and ritual.

The Southbury Child is rare for a modern play, in that it takes the daily life of the church - its quiet triumphs, daily challenges, and endless, complex evolution - as not only a serious subject, but one which highlights the divisions and changes in contemporary society.

This is the second of Stephen Beresford’s plays to be set in Dartmouth, on the South Devon coast. His first, The Last of the Haussmans dealt with a family in disarray, clinging to nostalgia, and a disintegrating political philosophy.

The Southbury Child dives into the Church - another of the great influences in his life - and uses the prism of parish politics to ask difficult, complex - and often savagely funny questions.

Content and Themes

At CFT, we want everyone to feel truly welcome and comfortable. While we try not to give away plot twists and narrative surprises, we also recognise that some people may find certain themes distressing. You’ll find guidance on such content below; please be aware that by reading this, some elements of the plot may be revealed. Please note that this may be updated nearer the time of the production as staging details are confirmed.

If you have any questions or feedback, do email us at

Language: Very strong language
Nudity: None
Violence: None
Themes: Parental bereavement and grief; racism; family breakdown; religious rituals and faith; transracial adoption; traffic accident; alcoholism; reference to miscarriage.


Running Time
Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes, including an interval