Festival 2013 has begun. The lights have been hung, the banners are up and the Theatre is full of actors again. It feels as though spring has woken the monster/princess that is Chichester Festival Theatre. 

On one side of the access road the Minerva hums with excited activity; on the other the controlled, fluent Festival Theatre steadily raises itself out of the earth. No less dramatic, but a slower drama. More Bernard Shaw, less Cole Porter. 

A rather important point has been reached with the build – there is a floor. The concrete was poured and swept across the newly-built basement ceiling in two great swathes. The extent of the basement layout is now absolutely visible, leaving an idea as to what the footprint of the extension will look like. What’s more, the supporting structures for what will be the first floor are reaching upwards, actually extending beyond head-height. We shall all be getting cricks in our necks by looking up at the progress of the first floor from now on, rather than from down into the basement as we have been. 

Inside the auditorium all progress should be labelled ‘infrastructure’. Steelwork is being altered and installed, and most importantly the truss has been attached to the roof, from which will hang the lighting rig. It may not sound particularly exciting, but it is symbolic – a lot has been removed, now things are being put back.

Anyone coming into the Theatre for the new season will be greeted by some attractive new hoardings with visualisations of the refurbished Festival Theatre. And just leaving Oaklands Park is the annual fair – the longest, loudest show in town! However, it certainly gave us all an idea of where Theatre in the Park will sit when it is erected in June (although there the similarities end)- albeit as a far more elegant and welcoming structure. 

Away from RENEW for a moment, the Royal Opera House will be steam-cleaning their red carpet for the Olivier Awards this Sunday (28 April). We’ve have racked up a proud number of nominations this year (13 in total), with several each for Sweeney Todd and Kiss Me, Kate, as well as a nod for Rupert Everett in The Judas Kiss.  Fingers firmly crossed. 

It has been a steady journey towards Festival 2013 and now that it is finally with us, Chichester Festival Theatre feels like an animal coming gratefully out of hibernation. The following months will be full of incidents and events as the great theatrical, critical eye turns toward Chichester once more. And although it can get hot beneath its gaze, goodness me, it has been a long, cold winter.  

Victor Manley
Campaign Coordinator, RENEW project