Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester, UK

Chichester Festival Theatre holds a coveted place in British theatrical history having opened in 1962 under the directorship of Laurence Olivier and became Britain’s first modern thrust stage theatre. Following a significant building-wide upgrade in 2014, this acclaimed incubator for new talent is ready for the future.

The RENEW project improved the foyers and front of house, the auditorium, accessibility, sustainability, back of house facilities and the technical infrastructure.

Chichester Festival Theatre is one of the UK’s leading producing theatres, regularly selling out the 1,300-seat auditorium and transferring plays and musicals into the West End of London. The theatre was inspired by Tyrone Guthrie’s thrust stage at Stratford Ontario. The project was founded by a local optician, Leslie Evershed-Martin, and designed by Powell and Moya. The iconic building was originally designed to operate only in the summer - dressing rooms were in tents outdoors - and the theatre was intended to stand for only two years. It opened with no lighting positions above the stage, an omission rectified for the second year of operation.

The RENEW project aimed to sustain and improve the unique Grade II* listed Festival Theatre and enhance its significant contribution to the district and county economy. Working sympathetically with the original design, the intent was to create a theatre with facilities fit for the 21st Century. The RENEW project improved the foyers and front of house, the auditorium, accessibility, sustainability, back of house facilities and the technical infrastructure.

“The great thing about the superbly renovated Chichester Festival Theatre is that it simply seems like a better version of its former self…”

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph

Exterior of Chichester Festival Theatre

The RENEW project aimed to sustain and improve the unique Grade II* listed Festival Theatre and enhance its significant contribution to the district and county economy.

Working sympathetically with the original design, the intent was to create a theatre with facilities fit for the 21st Century.

Rejuvenated foyer spaces provide new circulation space for visitors.

Further improvements to seating capacity, comfort and sightlines were made by tweaking aisle and stair locations.

The existing "starry night" houselighting scheme was reproduced using a customised catenary LED.

Space behind the original building was created by clearing the clutter of portacabins and other buildings added after 1962, and a new extension built, creating large rear-stage dressing rooms with views to the park - and new audience circulation cores, which allowed seating at the ends of the balconies to be re-introduced, increasing seating capacity and improving wheelchair access. An access corridor behind the rear row of seating was introduced to improve circulation: it is concealed behind a slatted panel wall, which disappears once the houselights fade, heightening the intimacy of this much-loved auditorium.

The bank of seating behind the cross-aisle was raised up to create an air supply plenum beneath it, and to improve sightlines over the cross-aisle. The change in air supply design not only improves energy efficiency, it allowed for technical rigging positions to be introduced around the perimeter of the auditorium, areas previously occupied by air supply ductwork.

“a 1960s classic that has regained its original vision while also achieving modern performance and efficiency standards.”

BD Online

Plan drawing of the auditorium at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Section drawing of the auditorium at Chichester Festival Theatre.

The RENEW project improved the foyers and front of house, the auditorium, accessibility, sustainability, back of house facilities and the technical infrastructure.

The original Control Room was rather generously-sized; reducing the depth of this allowed for an additional row of seating to be added in front. Temporary control positions within the auditorium were added to support production teams. Further improvements to seating capacity, comfort and sightlines were made by tweaking aisle and stair locations. Most of the existing seats were in good condition and could be re-used after refurbishment and re-upholstery; additional new seats were bought to match.

The lighting bridges above the auditorium were redesigned to improve access, rigging capability and lighting angles; this included inclined access ladders and a drawbridge for carrying equipment up into the bridges. The lighting bridge walkways are formed of glass-fibre reinforced plastic mesh, and careful angling of the sides of the walkways makes for minimal visual impact to the auditorium. The existing "starry night" houselighting scheme was reproduced using a customised catenary LED. The dimmers, lighting controls, paging system, stagelighting and audiovisual tielines were all replaced; along with all other mechanical and electrical systems in the building.

The team discuss the project.

Project Details

Client

Chichester Festival Theatre

Project cost

£22m

Completion

2014

Awards

RIBA South East Building Of The Year Award: Chichester Festival Theatre, 2015

Space behind the original building was created by clearing the clutter of portakabins and other buildings added after 1962, and a new extension built, creating large rear-stage dressing rooms with views to the park.

Credits

Architect

Haworth Tompkins

Theatre Consultant

Charcoalblue

Main Contractor

Osborne

Project Manager

Deloitte

Structural Engineer

Price & Myers

Services Engineer

Skelly & Couch

Quantity Surveyor

Gardiner & Theobald

Acoustic Consultant

Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design

Photography

Philip Vile

Related

a 1960s classic that has regained its original vision while also achieving modern performance and efficiency standards...

BD Online

Press

Alex Wardle

Talk to Alex about Chichester Festival Theatre.

+44 (0)20 7928 0000

Alex Wardle

Talk to Alex about Chichester Festival Theatre.

Contact Alex

+44 (0)20 7928 0000