Chichester murder: whodunnit!

The Exchange: Greg, actress Paula Tinker and director Roger
The Exchange: Greg, actress Paula Tinker and director Roger

Playwright Greg Mosse draws on memories of Chichester for a home-city whodunnit for the Festival of Chichester.

The Exchange – A Chichester Murder Mystery, set in and around Chichester in the shadow of the Great Strike of 1926, will be performed by Chichester Community Theatre at the Riverside Theatre at Chichester College from Tuesday, July 18-Saturday, July 22 at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee on July 22 at 2.30pm.

The Exchange in East Street is now Next clothes store. For many years, it was one of the city’s cinemas.

“My first experience of what was then the Granada cinema was when I was living in eastern Chichester, in Florence Road,” Greg recalls. “My mother and I walked into town to see a blockbuster film that was so long it had to have an interlude. It was The Sound of Music. It went on for absolutely ever but I totally loved it. When we came out I said to my mum, for whom it was a considerable sacrifice to buy the tickets – she was a single mum with three children – that I thought it was wonderful. She said to me ‘I should hope so, the price it cost!’

“It was utterly magnificent. I am sure when I went there it would have been a bit dusty and threadbare but to me who had never visited a professional theatre in my life, I was entranced. We saw The Sound of Music sitting in the front row of the circle. I had taken the precaution of bringing with me my school bag so that I would be able to sit on it and be a little higher.

“I didn’t know at the time but there was a deep historical significance to the story told in The Sound of Music which was on the surface of love story between a man that had lost his wife and a new woman he falls for, but of course the historical context is essentially the refugee story of fleeing the Nazis. You have on the surface this standard romance but the narrative behind it was riveting.”

Greg sets his own story a generation earlier: “Chichester was of course very different then. In the centre of Chichester there must have been five fresh meat butchers, and there was even a dedicated pork butcher. In The Hornet there was a butcher that sold game. In a way my generation was a connection to an even older generation but a generation that I knew well because my grandmother was born in the 1800s. She was about 70 years old when I was born, and I feel like I have these vicarious memories of Chichester, memories that somehow endured because Chichester in the 1960s was very substantially a pre-modern town.

“The Exchange, my play, came out of a desire to celebrate that imprint of the past on the city of Chichester that I knew as a child, almost through my grandmother’s eyes as the adult world at that time, of which The Exchange was part.

“There are two things that you need for a good story. You need a set of detailed and intricate personal conflicts between interesting and intelligent characters, and you need the wider world to put pressure on them. These external pressures make people show their true colours. People that coexist and rub along together when there are new external pressures find that allegiances break down and new alliances form and you find out who your friends really are.

Directed by Roger Redfarn. Tickets £12 are available from Chichester Box Office, The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester; phone 01243 816525 or 775888; www.thenovium.org/boxoffice; boxoffice@chichester.gov.uk.

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