Rufus Hound, Penelope Keith and Caroline Quentin are to star in Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2018 season, which will feature a 50/50 gender-split of actors.
Four of the season’s directors (36%) are also women, notable because of research carried out by Stage Directors UK last year which highlighted that 80% of directors were male  in the 12 months to the summer of 2017.
The 2018 programme includes a summer run of musical Me and My Girl, directed by Evans and starring Caroline Quentin, and an adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel The Watsons by Laura Wade. This will be directed by Samuel West, opening in November in the Minerva. It is one of three new plays in the season.
The season is the second to be announced by artistic director Evans, and also includes a revival of Flowers for Mrs Harris , a musical he first oversaw while working for Sheffield Theatres. Running from September, it will reunite Evans with its star, Clare Burt. Joanna Riding will also join the cast.
The programme includes revivals of productions including Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Mike Bartlett’s Cock.
Evans described the season as being “all about breadth of choice” and added: “This season we will achieve a 50:50 gender balance in our acting company.”
Hound will lead Present Laughter, which will be directed by Sean Foley and opens the season on April 20, in the Festival Theatre.
The season also includes a revival of Debbie Tucker Green’s Random/Generations, directed by Tinuke Craig, while Alan Strachan directs Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden, starring Keith alongside Amanda Root and Oliver Ford Davies in the Festival Theatre.
The Minerva will host Jonathan Munby’s The Country Wife in June, and Charlotte Jones’ new play The Meeting will be directed by Abrahami, opening at the Minerva in July.
This will be followed by a 20th-anniversary production of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, directed by Michael Blakemore and starring Charles Edwards.
Bartlett’s play Cock, opening in September, will be directed in the Minerva by Kate Hewitt, while Bryony Lavery is adapting David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang, with music by Joe Stilgoe and directed by Dale Rooks for the Festival Theatre.
Chichester 2018 season in full:
Present Laughter by Noel Coward
Directed by Sean Foley
Starring Rufus Hound
Running from 20 April to May 12, with press night on April 26
The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold
Directed by Alan Strachan
Starring Penelope Keith and Oliver Ford Davies
Running from May 25 t0 June 16 with press night on May 31
Me and My Girl by L Arthur Rose, Douglas Furber, Stephen Fry, Mike Ockrent and Noel Gay
Directed by Daniel Evans
Starring Caroline Quentin
Running from July 2 to August 25, with press night on July 9
Flowers for Mrs Harris by Rachel Wagstaff and Richard Taylor
Directed by Daniel Evans
Starring Clare Burt, Joanna Riding and Gary Wilmot
Running from September 8 to 29 with press night on September 14
The Midnight Gang by Bryony Lavery, adapted from David Walliams’ book
Directed by Dale Rooks
Running from October 13 to November 3, with press night on October 22
Random/Generations by Debbie Tucker Green
Directed by Tinuke Craig
Running from May 4 to June 2, with press night on May 10
The Country Wife by William Wycherley
Directed by Jonathan Munby
Running from June 8 to July 7, with press night on June 13
The Meeting by Charlotte Jones
Directed by Natalie Abrahami
Running from July 13 to August 11, with press night on July 19
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn
Directed by Michael Blakemore
Running from August 17 to September 22, with press night on August 22
Cock by Mike Bartlett
Directed by Kate Hewitt
Running from September 28 to October 27 with press night on October 4
The Watsons by Laura Wade
Directed by Samuel West
Running from November 3 to December 1, with press night on November 8