Review: Lotty’s War, by Giuliano Crispini, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until May 7
- Credit: Archant
Stories about the Second World War have been a staple of cinema since the war itself but plays about the dark days of the 1939-45 conflict have been fewer and far between. Local companies like Eastern Angles have examined the impact of war on the local landscape but apart from The Dame of Sark, Flare Path and Breaking The Code plays about the effects of the Second World War have been curiously absent from the British stage.
Lotty’s War gives a good indication of what we have been missing. It tells the story of Guernsey, one of the channel islands occupied by the Germans following the fall of France in 1940.
The tightly plotted three person play eschews the widescreen action of most World War II stories and concentrates on the stories of three individuals: Lotty – Charlotte Herve – played with playful gutsy determination by Victoria Emslie, her young suitor Ben de Carteret portrayed with an understandable sense of righteousness by Mat Ruttle and the German commander General Rolf Bernberg, who is given real humanity by Ian Reddington.
The performances are all very real with no false theatrics or heroic posturing. The actors are nicely low-key which suits the mood and the thoughtful nature of the play.
The audience is not invited to take sides but instead is asked to think about what they would do if they found themselves in the situation depicted on stage. It also asks the audience to examine the idea of what is and what is not collaboration.
The play starts with the German invasion in 1940. Lotty loses her father as the Luftwaffe bomb the harbour prior to the arrival of the army of occupation. Lotty has refused to flee the island, instead wanting to protect her home and the family tomato growing business.
Ben stays to protect Lotty but finds himself helpless when the German commander takes Lotty’s cottage as his quarters. At first Lotty is very cool towards her unwelcome house guest, deliberately spoiling his meals as Ben becomes an important figure in the local resistance movement.
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She adapts her father’s radio to keep in contact with Ben and feeds important information about the German forces learned from Bernberg. But, as the months pass and eventually turn into years, Lotty finds herself falling in love with Rolf, the man.
Little acts of kindness on both sides break down the barriers. But, this is not a simple tale of war time delusion or Stockholm syndrome. While Lotty loves Rolf as a person, she still hates what his uniform represents and continues to supply information to her old boyfriend that will undermine the German war effort.
The plays starts slowly, perhaps a little too slowly, but gradually, as you learn more about the characters, it steadily draws you in and asks you some tough questions about what you would do if faced with an occupying army that appears to be staying for the duration. Also could you love a man as person while hating what he stood for?
Giuliano Crispini has written an intriguing play with no easy answers and plenty to think about.