Chichester’s newest venue is in position ready to deliver an eclectic mix of events, from cabaret and music to circus and comedy.
Spiegeltent 2019 offers a brand-new venue for the city at Chichester Festival Theatre, offering a maximum capacity of around 150, situated on the edge of Oaklands Park, next to the theatre.
Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director Daniel Evans is looking forward to the chance of offering something very different at the CFT. It’s a risk, he admits – “but a very exciting risk!”
Spiegeltents have long been popular in Edinburgh and Brighton. Now Chichester gets to enjoy the fun.
It went up in a day at the CFT, in time for its first show Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads. The venue is an ornate, historic travelling tent, constructed from wood and canvas and decorated with mirrors and stained glass.
In the evenings it will be home to cabaret and comedy late-night events. During the day, you can bring the children for beatboxing adventures, comedy and crafts. The promise throughout is something completely fresh and contemporary.
“The first time it was mentioned was because I had two plays that I wanted to do in the Minerva and there wasn’t really room for both of them in the Minerva, so I thought we would make room,” Daniel says. “And one of the plays was one that would really benefit from being completely up close and personal with the performers, and that’s what you get with the Spiegeltent.
“And then I thought if I was putting on a play, why not think about programming a different kind of programme to what we do in the Minerva and in the main-house.”
Opening proceedings is Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads (October 5-November 2), a play set in a south London pub – a setting which lends itself perfectly to the Spiegeltent concept, Daniel says.
It is Saturday, October 7 2000. Gina, landlady of The King George pub, has a lot on her plate. The England vs Germany World Cup qualifying match is about to start, the pub football team is about to charge in and the TV’s on the blink. Over the next few hours, national defeat looms and tensions rise, fuelled by the fury of the pub team captain, Lawrie and the propaganda of right-wing extremist Alan. And while policeman Lee struggles to keep the peace, squaddie Mark and Gina’s bullied son Glen are fighting their own demons…
The Chichester Spiegeltent has been hired from a Dutch company: “There are not that many of them around. They are quite old. I think this one is from the beginning of the last century. Inside there is stained glass and wooden panels… and mirrors. Over the last 20 years Edinburgh has really flourished, and Spiegeltent has played a massive part in that, and indeed at Brighton.
“It will be there about two months in all. It went up in a day the company are so adept at putting it up, and it has been a good topic of conversation for people passing by. And we have really noticed a different kind of person booking, younger people who are perhaps more interested in more informal entertainment, light comedy, light cabaret.
“But there is also a strong interest from our core buyers, and we want them very much to feel welcome too. This is not just for new audiences. The Spiegeltent is for everyone, just as the whole building is absolutely for everyone.” As for the future: “We will have to see what happens. There is an element of risk for us, but an element of exciting risk. But what happens in the future will depend very much on whether people come along. My hope is very much that they will. We are working with a wonderful producer who has really helped us to programme the season in a very balanced way.”