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The Chichester Theatre Festival

The fame achieved by the Edinburgh Festival, to say nothing of the large number of visitors that it brings every year to the Scottish capital, has encouraged many other towns in Britain to organize similar festivals. Those at Bath, Cheltenham and Aldeburgh have all become considerable artistic successes, even if they haven't brought as much business to these towns as the local shopkeepers had hoped for.

The latest festival town to join the list is Chichester, which has earned a great deal of prestige by building, in record time, a large theatre holding over one thousand five hundred people. Here will be held each year a theatre festival in which many stars from the London stage will be eager to participate.

The first season scored a considerable success. The repertoire consisted of an old English comedy, a sixteenth-century tragedy and a production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in which every part was taken by a top star.

But the chief interest of the Chichester Festival is the new theatre itself, which has an apron stage. Most of you will know that the apron stage which was common in Shakespeare's day, projects out into the auditorium. With an apron stage there is no proscenium arch, or stage sets of the kind we are used to in the modern theatre. This calls for the use of an entirely different technique on the part both of the players, who have their audience on three sides of them instead of just in front, and the producer. The players must make proper use of their voices, which, to a generation accustomed to mumbling into microphones, is not easy.

Chichester itself is a small country town in the heart of Sussex, and the theatre stands on the edge of a beautiful park. Unlike Glyndebourne where the entire audience wears evening dress, the clothes worn by the audience at Chichester are much less formal; but as the festival is held in the summer the pretty frocks of the women make an attractive picture as they stand and gossip outside the theatre during the intervals, or snatch hasty refreshments from their cars in the park.

(Le Lingue del Mondo)

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