Chichester Festival Theatre looks forward to another top season

Summer attendances topping 200,000 will once again be the magical figure Chichester Festival Theatre will be hoping for in its 50th anniversary season.

The past two summer seasons have reached the mark - and CFT senior management will be hoping for more of the same in this landmark year.

Artistic director Jonathan Church admits it is impossible to say just how much the fact of the anniversary will be a boost to audience numbers in itself.

And he stresses that matching last year will be tough given that last year boasted two enormously-successful musicals - Singin’ In The Rain and Sweeney Todd.

“But I would be thrilled if we kept the audience up at that 200,000 level. It’s so hard to predict, but wouldn’t it be great if we had the best season we have ever had in the anniversary year. But you have to be pragmatic. And we would be delighted with 200,000. To be up at that level for this birthday year would be thrilling. But wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could smash all records. You can dream!”

Whatever happens, it is certain to be a long way from the now dim and distant dark days of 2005 when the summer season managed a grim 109,914, the lowest point after years of audience decline from a 1997 peak of 200,000.

Jonathan and CFT executive director Alan Finch took charge at the end of the 2005 and immediately reversed the slump.

2006, their first season, saw figures reach 141,847; summer 2007 attracted 150,115 theatre-goers; and 2008 saw figures rise to 174,854. 2009 was a year of consolidation, with summer audiences totalling 166,648 before numbers leapt again in 2010.

CFT 2012 season at a glance:

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, March 30-April 28, Minerva Theatre.

The Way of the World by William Congreve. April 13-May 5, Festival Theatre.

A Marvellous Year For Plums by Hugh Whitemore. May 11-June 2, Festival Theatre.

Canvas by Michael Wynne. May 18-June 16, Minerva Theatre.

Kiss Me, Kate. June 18-September 1, Festival Theatre.

Henry Goodman in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht. June 29 -July 28, Minerva Theatre

Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw. July 6– August 25, Festival Theatre.

Surprises by Alan Ayckbourn. August 8-September 8. Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn. August 10-September 8, Minerva Theatre

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. September 7-29, Festival Theatre

Toby Stephens in Noël Coward’s Private Lives. September 21-October 27, Minerva Theatre

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre presents Noah. July 27-August 11, Oaklands Park/Theatre on the Fly.