Arundel Festival: happy return to musical

Caroline Bennett. Pic by Rosey Purchase.
Caroline Bennett. Pic by Rosey Purchase.

Felpham-based Caroline Bennett is relishing the chance to return to Chess – The Musical, this time with the Arundel Players for the Arundel Festival.

Five years ago, she was on the Alexandra Theatre’s stage in Bognor Regis with BROS.

“I was playing the same part, and I just loved it,” she recalls. “When the show finished, I thought I would never get the chance to do this sing again. It is great to get back to it, and I think a five-year gap is decent.

“I think it was a good production last time, but I am hoping this time to do things slightly differently in terms of what I can bring to the character. And also this time, it is on a much smaller scale on a much smaller stage.

“Before it was in the Alex, and we had a big chorus and dancers and a big orchestra. This time, it will be very, very small, and I think that will focus it.

“I think it will serve the show well as it is so much an actor’s show as well. I think it will be more intense. It is an actor-singer’s show. It is not a singer-dancer’s show. Last time, it was a lot more about the big sound.

“ This time it will be much more about the characters and the story.”

Featuring music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice, it will be directed by Caroline’s mum Kate Bennett at the Players’ Priory Playhouse from Saturday to Saturday, August 19 to 26.

The main characters form a love triangle: the ill-mannered American Grandmaster, the intense Russian champion who plans on defecting to the West and the Hungarian-American female chess second who arrives at the international championships with the American but falls in love with the Russian.

Caroline is playing the love interest.

“I am playing Florence. She is the American chess player’s second in command. She supports him, and then when they meet the Russian, she falls for him. She ends up changing sides and working for him.

“The American is like a tempestuous teenager. He is on the edge, and I think she has just had enough of him. She is romantically involved with him, just to keep him on the straight and narrow, but he is quite destructive, and the Russian is more stable and more romantic. She sees something in him that she is looking for.

“We find out that she was born in Hungary at the time that the Russians invaded Hungary and caused terrible upset.

“She lost her parents. But the Russians don’t like her relationship with the Russian player and are looking to split them up.

“They tempt her away with the comment that her father is alive in a Russian prison and they will release him if they split up. There is a lot going on, a lot of emotion.

“And it is pretty much sung through. There is hardly any dialogue. It is a real singer’s show.

“A lot of the songs are narrative or they are in the characters’ heads. I Know Him So Well is between Florence and the Russian’s wife.

“We find out that he has a wife and children at home. The song is sung between the two women about their relationships with the Russian. There is so much emotion. There is a lot of complexity to the characters and what is happening.”

The box office is open from 9am to 9pm daily on 07523 417926. All performances start at 7.30pm, and tickets cost £14 each.

The show comes as part of this year’s Arundel Festival. Full details on www.arundelfestival.co.uk.

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