Chichester Festival Theatre Presents PLAYHOUSE CREATURES, July 19-Aug 11


Playwright April De Angelis takes a witty, exuberant look at the plight of the first actresses to tread the boards during the Restoration era in Playhouse Creatures, the second production to be staged at the brand new pop-up space, Theatre on the Fly. The show, directed by Michael Oakley, is set for 19 July - 11 August, 2012. Press night is July 23 at 8 p.m.

After 17 years of puritanical rule, Charles II – the ‘Merry Monarch’ – has been restored to the throne and at his command, the theatres have finally re-opened. Things have changed, and for the first time in English history, women are allowed to perform on stage. But in a glittering and bawdy age where selling oranges and bearing cleavage seem to be the only talents required, how will they ever be taken seriously? Playhouse Creatures strips away the dazzling make-up, silks and satins to reveal the determination, spirit and sheer nerve of these remarkable women.

Alexandra Gilbreath plays Mrs Betterton. Her credits include extensive work with the RSC where her credits include The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet (alongside David Tennant, both playing the title roles), The Tamer Tamed, The Winter’s Tale and Merry Wives: The Musical. She won the Ian Charleson Award for her performance in Hedda Gabler (English Touring Theatre).

The cast also includes Charlotte Happy Beaumont, Kirsty Besterman, Fiona Hampton and Susan Tracy, who returns to Chichester following her roles in Festival 2011’s The Deep Blue Sea and Rattigan’s Nijinsky.

April De Angelis’ recent work includes the Olivier Award nominated Jumpy (Royal Court Theatre) which transfers to the West End in August, A Gloriously Mucky Business (Lyric Theatre Hammersmith) and Calais (Paines Plough). Other credits include Ironmistress (Young Vic), Hush (Royal Court Theatre), The Positive Hour (Out of Joint/Hampstead Theatre), A Warwickshire Testimony (RSC) and Wild East (Royal Court Theatre). She has also written for Glyndebourne and English National Opera.

Michael Oakley trained at Chichester Festival Theatre from 2010 – 2011. He won the JMK Award for Young Directors for which he directed Edward II (BAC). Other credits include The Changeling (Southwark Playhouse), Graceland (Old Vic New Voices) and Shooting Truth (Chichester Festival Youth Theatre & NT Connections). He was most recently Associate Director of The King’s Speech in the West End.

Design is by Andrew D Edwards. His theatre credits include Backbeat (co-designer West End), Les Parents Terrible (Donmar Warehouse), Lettice and Lovage, Single Spies, Heroes and Educating Rita (Watermill Theatre), A Voyage Around My Father (Salisbury Playhouse), Measure for Measure (Theatre Royal Plymouth/UK tour), Jesus Christ Superstar (Madrid/European tour), No, It Was You (Arcola Theatre) and The Increased Difficulty of Concentration (Gate Theatre).

Lighting design is by Richard Howell, whose other forthcoming credits include Utopia (Newcastle Live and Soho Theatre) and The Tempest (Watermill Theatre). Other recent credits include Brimstone and Treacle (Arcola Theatre), .45 (Hampstead Theatre), Uncle Vanya and Snake in the Grass (The Print Room), Lettice and Lovage, Great Expectations, Single Spies and Heroes (Watermill Theatre). He was recently Associate Lighting Designer on King Lear (Donmar Warehouse, UK tour and New York) and re-lit Edward Hall’s Propeller productions of The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UK and international tours).

Sound design is by Tom Meehan, whose credits include Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun (Finborough Theatre), Swallows and Amazons (UK tour) and Sixty-Six Books (Bush Theatre).

Playhouse Creatures contains language and themes of an adult nature.

Playhouse Creatures is at Theatre on the Fly from 19 July – 11 August, Evenings 8pm, Matinees 3pm. Tickets £17, with concessions and day seats available. To book online, go to or contact the Box Office on 01243 781312.

Fly Under – playwright April De Angelis and director Michael Oakley will be in conversation on Wednesday 25 July at 6pm.

Fly: Over – a post-show discussion on Playhouse Creatures takes place on Tuesday 31 July in Theatre on the Fly.

Theatre on the Fly is a temporary new stage built on Oaklands Park, next to the existing Festival and Minerva Theatres. Theatre on the Fly echoes the exciting traditions of The Tent, a second auditorium which appeared opposite the Festival Theatre in 1983. The Tent nurtured a generation of emerging theatre-makers such as Sam Mendes and housed productions which were often more experimental than those on the main stage. The success of The Tent prompted the creation of the Minerva Theatre on the same site.

With the support of the Heller Foundation and Arts Council England, three young directors have trained at Chichester Festival Theatre during the last five years. Now, their debut Chichester productions – Blue Remembered Hills, Playhouse Creatures and Fred’s Diner - will be at the heart of the Theatre on the Fly season. The space will also house an eclectic season of late night comedy, live music and cabaret, The Youth Theatre’s production of Noah, theatre activities for children, and Anniversary readings.

Theatre on the Fly has been designed and is being built by Assemble, an award-winning collective of young artists, designers and architects specialising in creating temporary arts structures from reclaimed and donated materials. Their previous projects include The Cineroleum, which transformed a derelict petrol station in Clerkenwell into a hand-built cinema, and Folly for a Flyover which turned a cavernous gap between East and Westbound traffic on the A12 into a waterside arts venue.

In the best traditions of the original Festival Theatre, the temporary space will be built with community help from B&Q, who have sponsored the construction, Friends, Youth Theatre members, and other supporters.

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