Star-studded season should boost other theatres

It’s important the parade continues – but safely

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Nobody could ever accuse the Portsmouth region of being a cultural desert.

The music scene is flourishing as in no other period since the Swinging Sixties, as are the area’s independent filmmakers.

The region is a magnet for top-of-the-tree comedians and classical music is going through something of a renaissance in the city and its environs.

You only need to study The Guide in The News each Friday to get a taste of the rich variety on offer week in, week out.

But when it comes to theatre we are surely even more blessed than many other areas of Britain.

In Portsmouth we boast two beautiful playhouses in the Kings and New Theatre Royal – the latter scheduled to re-open later this year. Along the M27 in Southampton there’s the Mayflower.

And then, of course, we have Chichester Festival Theatre.

Outside the West End and Shakespeare-driven Stratford-upon-Avon, this is probably Britain’s leading theatre. It is certainly the leading theatrical season.

And as we report on page 15 today it is back with a bang.

It reopens in July (for a season which starts much later than usual) after an 18-month closure for a £22m rebuild and refurbishment. Welcome back.

Artistic director Jonathan Church has single-handedly propelled the 52-year-old CFT back to the top of the Premier League in recent years. Thank goodness he missed out on the top job at the National Theatre last autumn – even if it was by the narrowest of margins; a huge tribute to his talents and the rekindled reputation of his CFT.

Just look at how many Chichester productions have transferred to the West End during his tenure.

Who else could have lured stars of the quality of Zoe Wanamaker, Rupert Everett, David Haig, Penelope Wilton, Imelda Staunton and Dervla Kirwan to Chichester this year?

If your theatre-going has lapsed in recent years, why not use this year’s Chichester season to re-inspire you?

And use it as inspiration to support live theatre in the various other venues around the area.