Heroism, bravery, sacrifice and love on the Bognor stage

Danielle Morgan & John Merrigan
Danielle Morgan & John Merrigan

A remarkable story of heroism, bravery, sacrifice and love will be aired again when Danielle Morgan and John Merrigan bring Love In The Harbour to Bognor’s Regis Centre.

The piece plays the venue on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 at 7.30pm, ahead of dates in Sevenoaks, Wimborne, Horsham, Chichester and Crawley.


Last year the show enjoyed success as part of both the Brighton Festival and the Festival of Chichester. Now it returns in expanded in form.


Offering a moving dramatisation of the lives of real-life Irish heroes in the original Royal Flying Corps set near the end of World War One, the piece is a play by Eddie Alford, to which Danielle and John added incidental music.


John explains: “The piece was purely a play, but the feedback was that people wanted to know more about the historical context of the play and secondly they wanted more music. We took those two elements together. We have put together a show that features narrative to give that historical context and also explanations of the scene. You have got the narration and the acting, and the music is the third element. It heightens the emotion and the experience of the audience. The nearest thing I can thing of is The War Of The Worlds by Jeff Wayne. It’s a similar experience with the narrator, the acting and the music.”


Adding to it all further will be a backdrop featuring contemporary images.


The play is set in Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly and northern France. Set in 1916-1918, it features George McElroy, known as McIrish in the Royal Flying Corps. There is a fictional love story between George and Grace the receptionist in The Grand Canal Hotel in Shannon Harbour. Grace’s father is the local Republican leader and is not impressed with the young English officer.


Playwright Eddie has re-written some of the scenes to enhance the drama: “And this time the music is much more prominent,” John says. “We have tried to move away from just having a play. We were wanting to have a much broader visual and audio experience for the audience, and I think that that way we can tell the story better.


“Also, in the olden days, history was just about the dates and facts. We wanted to make it much more about the emotions that the characters are feeling. We want to tell the story, but we also want those emotions. We have written a new song called Nobody Wants War, a song which explores the whole area of PTSD. In those days of World War One, men were fighting and were just expected to get on with it. They weren’t allowed to express their emotions. But we did find with our research people found other ways to express things…”


Danielle and John have completely recast the show since last year: “We had some great fun casting. We put some adverts up on The Stage, and we got a terrific response to that. The casting has enabled us to bring new energy and great acting to the show. And the orchestra will be ex-graduates of the university. The music will all be performed live, live band, live orchestra, live vocals.”


There has been serendipity about the whole thing: “We start out with a plan, but every time we do it, something new happens we hadn’t expected.”


John and Danny are also delighted to have been able to bring in leading scenographer Pamela Howard.

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