New community theatre group for Chichester launches

A new theatre company is being set up in Chichester with the promise of a wide-ranging choice of challenging plays and musicals.

It is now recruiting for its first outing.

The opening production will be the premiere of No 60 to the Somme, by Greg Mosse and Carol Godsmark, telling the story of the London buses and their drivers who went to the front during World War One.

The production, which includes music-hall songs of the period, will play at the Riverside Theatre, Chichester College, during the first week of November.

Group artistic advisor, the distinguished theatre director Roger Redfarn, said: “We would be delighted to hear form actors, technicians, stage management, costume makers, as well as people interested in marketing and front of house – in fact anyone who would like to join this new and exciting theatre company.

“No matter your level of experience in the performing arts, we would like to meet you. Workshops and training sessions as well as play readings will be included in our work.”

Roger, whose Chichester Festival Theatre productions have included The Barchester Chronicles, The Devil’s Dancing Hour, Song of Singapore and Underneath the Arches, urged anyone interested to come along to a public meeting in St John’s Chapel, St John’s Street, Chichester on Wednesday, June 3 at 7pm. If you cannot attend, register your interest through chichestercommunitytheatre.org.uk or email contact@chichestercommunitytheatre.org.uk.

Roger confirmed the aim behind it all is to secure a performance space for community arts in Chichester: “I don’t mean amateur. I am not using that word. I am talking about pros, semi-pros, retired pros. One of the big things that is difficult for community companies in Chichester is the lack of a space. If you look at Arundel, they have got the wonderful Priory Playhouse. You also think of the Barn in Southwick. What we are working towards is finding a space in Chichester. The great tragedy when they built the new museum in Chichester is they didn’t think to put in a 200-seat performance space. I don’t mean just for theatre, but also for small musical theatre. They do a great job at St John’s Chapel, but it is not ideal, and Westbourne House is not easy to get to.

“The idea is a space that is just for putting on shows. We want to be able to run things like workshops there. There are a couple of places we are looking at. We have been going into this for three or four months, but we just decided ‘Let’s get on and do something.’ We have got a really good relationship with the college, so we are going to use the Riverside Theatre there.”

Ultimately, Roger concedes, it could be a question of having to build something from scratch which would come at a cost of several million, but the point is – for the moment – to set the ball rolling: “We want something we can have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I would like to think we might do four productions a year, but all that is very much depending on the space.”

They have got the rights to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as a potential future production.