Chichester Festival Theatre - the "nurturing journey" we all missed...

Henry Goodman regrets most the fact that Chichester audiences weren’t able to go on the “truly nurturing journey” he’d already enjoyed with Bertolt Brecht’s The Life Of Galileo.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 7:05 am
Henry Goodman
Henry Goodman

The piece was scheduled to open the 2020 Chichester Festival Theatre summer season at the end of April.

Henry, who was to have played Galileo, had the role “85-90 per cent learnt”; but as the coronavirus outbreak struck, in the event they managed just one day of rehearsals: “We had one day of the smaller group of the family, the daughter and the young boy. And the Catholics and the Jesuits and the Pope were coming the following Monday. We had a week to bond as a family before we met the opposition! And there was a real sense of being able to build something.”

But there it ended… for the moment. Galileo is one of the titles the CFT would still love to do in the future – whether next year or beyond. Henry will be hoping so – as much for the sake of his audience as for the sake of the company.

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“From my point of view, I was already so richly nurtured by the research for this play, by the play itself, by the life of Galileo. I had been in Mexico and Barcelona filming, and this play had been growing in me for months. It has been cut off from coming to fruition, but I was richly nurtured, and that is not unimportant. It will stay with me. I read so much, and it was fascinating. Einstein called Galileo the father of modern science.”

The production was going to reunite Henry with director Jonathan Church who had directed him in another Brecht classic The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui in Chichester in 2012-13.

“And now we have this interruptus. I had pretty much learnt the play. Galileo is 75 at the end of the play. He starts in his 50s and it goes through all the big discoveries, that the earth goes around the sun and his battles with the Florentine court. It is fascinating that Michelangelo died a couple of hours before Galileo was born. There was a sense in Florence that the baton had been passed from the arts to the sciences. I felt very inspired by it. So there was a great sense of loss. What I feel sad about it that were was a wonderful suitability for this particular play about science and space and the cosmos in that huge circular auditorium in Chichester. There are some beautiful scenes that combine intimacy with universal questions. The yeast was definitely rising at the read-through.”

Instead theatre, like everything else, has been shaken to the core. And yes, Henry believes that theatre will emerge changed by what we have all gone through.

“There is the practical aspect that almost every venue with the technical capability should record everything they do so that if there is a problem they can dip into their libraries and do what the Royal Opera House, the RSC and the National have done. But what also happens in many traumatic situations, once the wounds have healed, the intrepid phoenix rises. People still want something meaningful in society. There will always be the arts instinct.”

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