Rachel Lumberg is relishing her Chichester Festival Theatre return

Rachel Lumberg and Kirsty MacLaren in This Is My Family
Rachel Lumberg and Kirsty MacLaren in This Is My Family

Rachel Lumberg and Clare Burt are the two originals from the first production who return as Tim Firth’s musical This Is My Family enjoys its latest incarnation.

Revived by CFT artistic director Daniel Evans, it runs in the Minerva Theatre from April 20-June 15 – a show which brings Rachel back to the Chichester stage for the first time in more than 20 years.

She was in Katherine Howard in a production in the late 1990s in which the late Richard Griffiths played King Henry VIII.

“Katherine Howard was wonderful,” Rachel recalls. “We closed the season in Chichester, and it was a beautiful cast. I felt incredibly honoured to be within that cast. I kept in touch with Richard Griffiths until he died. He would pop over to me or vice versa. He was a lovely man, an absolutely wonderful man. And I had always wanted to work in Chichester.”

She hasn’t done since, though – until now: “Nothing ever really arose for me, but I am really pleased to be back now.”

This Is My Family tells of a spirited 13-year-old who has entered a magazine competition to describe your family.

The prize is a dream holiday for the lot of them, anywhere in the world.

Except… Nicky’s family isn’t the blissfully-happy bunch she’s described. More like the contestants in a gladiatorial arena, in fact. Where on earth can she take them that might make her wishful thinking a reality?

“I was part of the original cast when we first did it many moons ago and then we took it to Sheffield where Daniel was artistic director at the time. Now we are bringing it back with a new cast with two of the originals, myself and Clare Burt.

“It was a full production. We did it in the studio space and then a year later we took it on a small tour to see if it would work within a proscenium-arch setting as well as the studio.

“It did work in some spaces and it didn’t work in some others.

“It was quite a weird thing really, but really it is such an intimate piece.

“You need the beauty of an intimate studio space where the audience actually feels like they are in the house with us and in the forest with us. You do find on a proscenium-arch setting, you are performing for an audience rather them being actually part of it.

“The beauty of this is that they actually do become part of it.

“It is a beautiful piece, a really beautiful piece. It is so beautiful I can’t even begin to tell you. It is literally brimming over with heart. You will come along and see it and think ‘I know this’, ‘I know that’, ‘I understand this’, ‘I understand that’… and the music is so integral. It is just like it is another character. Tim’s music is so wonderful. That alone is so beautiful, and the orchestration is just breathtaking.

“I am playing the mum’s sister, Aunty Sian. I love Sian. Just when it is all teetering on the edge of tears, then Sian comes in. She is a big personality without a shadow of doubt. She is the younger sister, and secretly she would love to have what the family unit has got.

“She has recently divorced and she has now found herself or is trying to find herself, or so she thinks – and we see Sian going through various moments in her newfound self.

“She is wily. She has a lot of wisdom, and she is slightly bull in a china shop, but it all done with heart. And she absolutely loves her family.”

Tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre.

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