New musical drama brings Oscar Wilde to the Bognor stage

Husband and wife musical team Danielle Morgan and John Merrigan take Oscar Wilde’s tragic demise as the inspiration for their new musical drama Vengeance which gets its premiere at the Regis Centre, Bognor Regis on Friday and Saturday, July 23 and 24 at 7.30pm.

John & Danni
John & Danni

John wrote the book and is producing; the music and lyrics are by John and Danielle for a show which has come together remarkably quickly.

As John explains: “For a long time, ever since I was growing up, I have always had a fascination with Oscar Wilde, and my mother gave me an insight into literature that I have carried with me ever since. She said ‘If you want to get to know the work, get to know the author.’ And that applies to Oscar.

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“The thing about Oscar Wilde is that his story has been told in so many different ways. I have been trying for some time to find a new way of approaching it, and this just came together.

“I only started writing it at the end of January this year. It just came really fast, but it is the culmination of sporadic research and inspiration from my youth. The story just poured out. It was like a cake that was being baked over the years and then it was just ready to take out of the oven. And then when you have got the basic cake, you look to start to embellish it. I ran it past other people, and what was really interesting was that they were all really positive.

“The format of the show is that we combine acting and narrative and music, an unusual format for telling Oscar’s story. We have put in his great friend Robbie Ross, who was a constant companion throughout his life, and we have used him as the narrator, telling the story. It is Robbie who connects with the audience and drives the narrative.

“The starting point for the show is 1895, the year Oscar went from being a hero to being a zero.

“In the February he had two shows on in the West End including The Importance of Being Earnest, but three months later, after his trials, he was nothing. He ended up in jail, and that is the starting point. He went from being top of the pops to being an outcast in society in just a matter of months.

“The other thing is the amazing characters that influenced him, his mother, his wife with whom he had two children and also his nemesis the Marquess of Queensberry who was out to protect his son. We have elevated them so that they tell their own story.

“The Marquess of Queensberry and Oscar embarked on a path where they had so many opportunities to regroup and to find a way out, but they didn’t, and that is the driving force and that is why we have called it Vengeance. And the story is still relevant. There are always people that are outside society, always people that are carried away on this conveyor belt until the outcome is not what they wanted. They are just driven along until there is a really bad outcome.”

John and Danielle are not actually performing in the show, though Danielle provides a voice off stage for a couple of songs that are like the conscience, she says, one at the start and one at the end.

“We didn’t want to distract from John’s narrative. The songs are like ‘If you didn’t get that, well, then here it is again’”, Danielle says. “The songs are like the consciences of the characters, their inner personal thoughts.”

Tickets from The Regis Centre.