Lenny Henry leads the way in Chichester Festival Theatre’s summer line-up

Lenny Henry will star in Educating Rita by Willy Russell at the Minerva Theatre in June
Lenny Henry will star in Educating Rita by Willy Russell at the Minerva Theatre in June
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COMEDIAN Lenny Henry is among the star names in Chichester Festival Theatre’s summer season.

Sarah Parish and Anna Chancellor are also in the line-up at the theatre, which will host its first ‘normal’ summer season since major refurbishments began in 2013.

Sarah Parish

Sarah Parish

Last year’s season – housed in a purpose-built tent in the adjacent park – had a record attendance of 225,000.

Artistic director Jonathan Church said he hoped to repeat this success by bringing together a line-up which includes the CFT youth theatre’s production of Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo, A Damsel In Distress, a musical by George Gershwin, and Mack and Mabel starring Michael Ball.

The season kicks off with Way Upstream by Alan Ayckbourn (April 23-May 16), starring Sarah Parish. It will test the main stage’s new capabilities by filling the stage with water.

Jonathan said: ‘It’s a play set on a river in a boat. We have to fill the stage with water and put a real boat on it.

Anna Chancellor

Anna Chancellor

‘When they did it at the National more than 20 years ago, the liner that was holding the water was cracking and a lot of the water ended up under the stage.’

At the Minerva Theatre next door, Lenny Henry will star as university lecturer Frank in Willy Russell’s Educating Rita (June 18-July 25), the play which was made into a film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters.

This follows Henry’s successful turn in The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre in London and his acclaimed Shakespearean debut as Othello.

The theatre season closes with a trilogy of the first three plays written by Russian playright Anton Chekhov – Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull (September 28-November 14).

These will star BAFTA nominees Anna Chancellor, famous for her television roles in Spooks and The Hour, and Samuel West, who is best known for his appearance in Howards End.