6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Cotswold Life today click here

Theatre review: Lotty’s War

PUBLISHED: 10:43 15 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:08 07 April 2015

Adam Gillen as Ben, and Olivia Hallinan as Lotty, in Lotty's War, Cheltenham Everyman

Adam Gillen as Ben, and Olivia Hallinan as Lotty, in Lotty's War, Cheltenham Everyman

Archant

If you want to see a superb piece of theatre, then catch Lotty’s War at Cheltenham Everyman, running until Saturday, October 18

Olivia Hallinan as Lotty, in Lotty's War, Cheltenham EverymanOlivia Hallinan as Lotty, in Lotty's War, Cheltenham Everyman

At 18, on a gap-year between school and university, I was determined to go to France as an au pair; but I made the mistake of stopping off at Guernsey, on the way. I knew it slightly – and I’d read Elizabeth Goudge’s wonderful Green Dolphin Country – but I wasn’t prepared for the way this little island, a dot in the ocean, grabbed at my heart and wouldn’t let go. I ended up working there, more or less, all year.

I arrived from Jersey in the smallest plane I’d ever been in. Sitting room was on two facing benches; the pilot turned to the last person in and said, “Close the door!” Some years later, when my brother drove (via ferry from Weymouth) to visit an island relative, he was told, “I’ll meet you at the port; it’s dangerous now. They’ve put in a new traffic system and cars fly at you from every direction.” When my brother turned up, he found the island’s first roundabout.

It was idyllic – so safe that I could cycle to the beach at midnight and wander along the deserted shores. But there was something that was never mentioned: the war. Nor did I ask; somehow – I’m not sure whether it was a justified silence on my part or not – it felt like prying; almost like prodding a wound.

And now I understand. Now that I’ve seen Lotty’s War, on stage at Cheltenham’s Everyman, I understand. Firstly, there’s the programme, with its hard-faced sepia photographs. It tells us how the Germans saw the Channel Islands as a base from which to invade Britain; and, when they made their move, Britain (one could say) took the strategic decision of leaving the situation to play out while it concentrated on other issues.

Thousands of children were evacuated. For those who remained, there were five years of German occupation; “Before long, there would be as many as three soldiers for every resident”. A curfew was imposed from 11pm-5am; all houses had to fly a white flag; everyone had to carry an ID card. Films at the cinema – complete with portrait of Hitler – were in German; singing the National Anthem was verboten.

All that, of course, makes for drama. But Lotty’s War’s author Giuliano Crispini went a layer below that cruel surface. What is morality, he asks, in impossible circumstances? Is it, as Guernsey’s bailiff believed, integrating himself into the German government so that he at least could oversee food distribution and medical aid for islanders? Or is it to resist with every last core of your being and escape – as eight islanders did in September 1940, in a 20ft boat, rowing out to sea despite enemy planes flying overhead and dropping flares within yards of them?

Crispini himself had grown up on the island, playing ‘Germans and Brits’ in the bunkers and gun batteries that still litter the shore; so his knowledge – from the patois (when I lived there, I think one elderly patois-speaking islander remained) to the shameful silence – is profound. And he used it brilliantly. Lotty is a young woman whose father was one of the 33 killed in the initial invasion; her boyfriend, Ben, wants to get married. But their lives are catastrophically altered, not just by the invasion, but by the incursion of General Rolf Bernberg, who takes over Lotty’s house and blackmails her into becoming his housekeeper.

This is the tragedy of an island, where food is so scarce that ‘coffee’ is made from grated parsnip and bramble leaves for tea. Eventually, even that runs out. For Lotty and her German General, life is slightly sweeter – both in terms of supplies, and in terms of their feelings towards each other, which turn from the utmost froideur into something a little more complicated.

The horror of the islanders’ position is starkly played out from the start. Lotty wants to take a plate of leftover supper to her neighbour, but Ben won’t let her. “What is some German soldier going to do if he catches me out with a plate of ham sandwiches! Shoot me?”

“Yes.”

While slightly confused by Ben’s almost childlike early scenes (played by Adam Gillen), the drama between Lotty (Olivia Hallinan) and the General (Mark Letheren) was mesmerising and utterly convincing.

As the play progresses, it becomes clear that they’re all trapped, and not just by guns. Some by orders; some by necessity; some by loyalty; some by confusion. As the author comments in the programme, these situations lead right-thinking people to ask, “What would I have done?” Judging the past can be a dangerously self-satisfying task.

My only comment in this wonderful play would be: did the end need to border on the melodramatic? Perhaps it needed to mirror the horrors of the world outside the tight cottage scene in which the play took place. But I’d have been satisfied with a more cerebral, psychological, verbal outcome.

Still, I loved it. It made me think; it made me feel; it made me ashamed that I would ever pass judgement on anyone in an impossible situation. Because impossible situations are exactly that. Impossible.

*******

• Lotty’s War by Giuliano Crispini, adapted by Clare Slater, is at Cheltenham Everyman from Monday, October 13-Saturday, October 18; 7-10 Regent St, Cheltenham GL50 1HQ, 01242 572573; www.everymantheatre.org.uk

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Thu, 15:57

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tue, 13:35

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Cotswold Life back in 2007, Candia McKormack, now our deputy editor but back then a designer, came up with this brilliant interpretation of the iconic Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album cover. We liked it so much we thought we’d use it again on our 50th anniversary

Read more
Mon, 14:29

We never tire of pretty pictures of the Cotswolds. Here are ten of the best shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Walk in the footsteps of the talented and controversial socialites, the Mitford Sisters, around stunning Asthall and sublime Swinbrook. The perfect pub walk for a summer’s day

Read more
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Crunchy leaves under foot, bracing walks in beautiful countryside, mugs of hot chocolate in cosy tea rooms and charming pubs with roaring fireplaces – what’s not to love about autumn in the Cotswolds?

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

For 80 years now, Bourton-on-the-Water has been one of the country’s finest locations in which to catch sight of Gulliver-esque giants. Join us as we get on hands and knees to take a peek into the homes of Cotswolds’ own Lilliput...

Read more
Friday, September 1, 2017

We go behind the scenes of Oxfordshire’s largest sporting event

Read more
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Positioned on the Roman-built Fosse Way, Moreton-in-Marsh is a town steeped in history. Complete with chocolate box houses and meandering streets, it’s the perfect place to explore for a taste of quintessential Cotswold life. We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit…

Read more
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Walk in the footsteps of Lewis Carroll and visit the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland amid the historic water meadows of Oxford

Read more
Thursday, July 27, 2017

Imposing manor houses, quiet medieval villages, idyllic swathes of countryside - the Cotswolds offers a lot for location scouts in the film business. We pick 19 famous filming locations in the Cotswolds, as seen on screens big and small

Read more
Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Reeves family, from Dursley, have always loved cycling through the countryside with daughters, Hannah and Charlotte. But as Charlotte, now 19, grew older, her special needs made cycling increasingly difficult. Their solution – Charlotte’s Tandems – is now an innovative UK-wide charity, as Katie Jarvis discovered

Read more
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Thousands of visitors flocked to BBC Countryfile’s first live event last year, and following its monumental success it will return to Blenheim Palace this summer, promising to be bigger and better than ever. We pick ten reasons why Countryfile Live is the perfect day out for the whole family

Read more
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jane Leigh visits the Warwickshire town of Royal Leamington Spa to find a thriving independent sector amongst the Regency architecture

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

There are plenty of fantastic events in the Cotswolds this summer, and many can be enjoyed with man’s best friend in tow. Mark Lewis, Managing Director of Cotswold RAW, the biologically appropriate raw food for dogs, talks us through what’s coming up for you and the family to attend

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Cotswold Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cotswold's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search