Intrigue, romance and high drama in seaside play

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Robert Winter is playwright, co-director and also an actor for the latest production from the Pagham Players.

Set in a quiet seaside resort during World War Two similar to Bognor Regis, Chatterbugs! comes promised as a light-hearted play with elements of intrigue, romance and high drama, a cross between The 39 Steps, Dad’s Army and Brief Encounter.

Robert will be co-directing with Judy Hall, the founder of Pagham Players, with performances at Pagham Village Hall on May 17 and 18, shortly before the 80th anniversary of D Day.

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“I first got the idea just over a year ago when the Pagham Players were in the process of selecting a play to do and I proposed one that I had found on the internet about World War One but the selection committee decided to do something else. I just thought that there's a lot of nostalgia in Pagham, and it seemed to me that there would be an appetite for a World War Two-based drama and it just evolved from there.

Robert Winter (contributed pic)Robert Winter (contributed pic)
Robert Winter (contributed pic)

“The main storyline is about a mother who is a hairdresser in wartime Britain and who has been separated from her son by her estranged husband. That's the primary story but underpinning that there are number of different subplots.”

One is that the hairdresser, who is called Lillian, has been blackmailed into spying for the Nazis. “In return the terms of the blackmail are that she will be reunited with her son.”

A second subplot is that she embarks on an affair with World War One veteran who is suffering from shell shock. Another subplot is that there is a bumbling volunteer group of women who mistakenly see evidence of traitors’ plots everywhere but miss the real spy right under their noses.

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“We do two plays a year. We put on a pantomime every December and we also put on a summer show. In recent years we've been putting on murder mysteries and comedies but it's quite difficult to find a script where we can include the whole company.”

Robert was able to write Chatterbugs! with the Pagham Players in mind. As for directing his own work, he admits he has had to be flexible in rehearsals, rewording a few lines as need be: “I'm also acting in it. I'm playing the World War One shell-shocked veteran. He was traumatised by his experiences in World War One and then his wife died of Spanish flu. He's been on his own for 20 years and he's seeing a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is saying to him to live every day the same and to find his interests but don't go looking for drama.

“I'm definitely tempted to write another play. This one has been quite ambitious for the group.

"Next time I might go for a smaller cast and fewer scene changes. We are constantly changing from one set to another and I think I've pushed everyone to the limit of their experience!

"There have also been a lot of costumes to source for this play.”

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