"It is an anti-war piece, and that’s what we need to hear" - Bognor show coming up

Danielle Morgan & John Merrigan
Danielle Morgan & John Merrigan

Leading scenographer Pamela Howard is helping shape an anti-war play heading to Bognor Regis.

Selsey-based Pamela has come in as consultant to musicians Danielle Morgan and John Merrigan who are reprising Love In The Harbour.

Seen at last year’s Festival of Chichester, they are now revising the play for a revival at Bognor’s Regis Centre on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 at 7.30pm, ahead of dates in Sevenoaks, Wimborne, Horsham, Chichester and Crawley.

Danielle and John have completely recast the show since last year.

“To me, it is an anti-war piece, and that’s what we need to hear,” Pamela says. “In my view, it is about the futility of war, and if that’s the case, it is an important piece. If they can get the acting and the music and everything together, it is an interesting piece. I always say that if you want to play with the big boys in the playground, you have got to be prepared for the battle!

“But there is definitely a very, very good idea there and some really good people at the helm, and I think they will get there. I am very happy to collaborate with them and to use my lifetime’s experience. The germ of it all is a very good story. It doesn’t have to be told in a naturalistic or declamatory way. Sometimes you need to see the relationships.”

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. 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 be-tween 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.

Pamela said she was enjoying working with Danielle and John: “They are great, and they are out of the norm, out of the box. They don’t have the conventional theatrical language.

“There is no shorthand with them. They are not using all the well-worn phrases that we use in the theatre, and that means they are coming at it in a different way which is very refreshing.

“It also puts questions to me that I might not know how to answer. I am feeling quite challenged, and that is good. I never like to be doing the same thing all over again, or at least I try not to, and this is different.”

Pamela was invited to become involved: “I said that I couldn’t do more than be an outside eye, a consultant, that I would be interested if I could be an objective looker, that I could ask questions that perhaps might not be for me to answer, that might be for them to go away and think about.

“I didn’t want to be a dictator telling them what they needed to do. I wanted to be a collaborator.

“And so I am looking at what each actor’s individual journey in this piece is, what does the audience see when they start and what does the audience see at the end of the piece. What is their story? How do they change and what changes them? You have to make sure that you are going on a journey with the actor.

“And then you have to think how does that mirror itself in terms of the space.

“How does the space start off and how do you fill it? And I don’t mean with things. I mean people.

“You fill it and then you empty it, and that way the stage is never static.

“And then the most important thing is the music. We have an orchestra and a band and a narrator, and we have got the actors.”

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