War is always a difficult and emotive subject to talk about and conflict, so close to home, even more so. Lotty’s War is a timely story of love, courage and betrayal set on the beautiful but occupied island of Guernsey in World War II. Lotty, a young and free spirited girl, is catapulted into the turbulent world of war in the most brutish way imaginable. Her father is killed by enemy aircraft and Lotty finds herself sharing the home she grew up in with an enemy officer. In the struggle between loyalty to homeland and the temptations of forbidden love, will Lotty dare to tread a passionate and dangerous path to save a friend?
Lotty’s War is a deeply challenging production which forces us to dig deep into moral and ethical issues. Olivia Hallinan, as Lotty, gives a powerful and penetrating performance. Her character is beautifully sculptured and develops as time progresses from a naive young girl into a complex, troubled and careworn woman who has agonised over the choices she has made. Hallinan is well known for her role (Laura Timmins) in Lark Rise to Candleford but in her portrayal of Lotty she really demonstrates her virtuosity.
Lotty’s War isn’t, however, a one-woman show. Mark Letheren as General Rolf Bernberg and Adam Gillen as Ben de Carteret also give stunning performances. Letheren cleverly avoided the pitfall of turning the General into a caricature and gave a performance that was both sophisticated and frighteningly chilling. On one hand he depicts the General as a kind, considerate and loving person and on the other, a monster incapable of showing mercy, compassion or even guilt. For those of you in the education field I present a teacher alert status – you can dine out on this character alone for many a lesson such is the intensity, moral implications and questioning that it inspires. Although the play was well attended there was far too few teens and twenties for my liking. For those in that age category I challenge you to book a ticket. It isn’t instantaneous gratification but it presents a thoughtful and challenging dialogue superbly portrayed by seasoned actors who really know their craft. On that note however it wouldn’t be a cohesive review without talking about the character of Ben de Carteret skilfully played by Adam Gillen. This is, perhaps, the most difficult part of the trio to portray. The local boy and the focus of Lotty’s childhood passion not only has to grow into a man of substance but also has to challenge, provoke and enrage the passions giving a performance that juxtaposes that of Letheren. Gillen does that with aplomb. In fact the trio of actors command the stage from start to finish – complementing and demanding each to give of their best.
If I enthuse to the nth degree it’s only because this play deserves an excellent review. I won’t lie to you – it isn’t a light-hearted evening out. It isn’t a fun-filled evening that dims into history the next day. This one stays with you and for that reason you should seek it out. The dialogue is easy and natural – a true complement to the skills of writer Giuliano Crispini. Dramaturge Clare Slater and Director Bruce Gurthrie should be congratulated on a truly memorable production as should Resident Director Carla Kingham. I loved the time lapse sequences; they were particularly clever and completely apt. Imagine those routines that every house hold goes through – like the morning breakfast saga and then visualise the way they change over a period of time as the difficulties and awkwardness of a new relationship is ironed out and the comfortable easy long-term developed. It was a simple, subtle but extremely clever portrayal of a developing romance over the period of time that marked the occupation of Guernsey. The set was also clever and functional – its simplicity and understated nature worked well as a backdrop to this powerful production. The sound effects were also subtle and emotive in their precision.
I couldn’t finish this review though without mentioning the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. Funnily enough, it was the first theatre I ever attended as child; I considered it a magical and wondrous place. As an adult, I can appreciate more the reason why it is one of the UK’s leading producing theatres. Overlooking the River Wey, it is a beautiful spot for a pre-performance meal. The theatre itself is well appointed with comfortable seats, decent air conditioning and a staff who couldn’t do more for you if they tried. The facilities for the disabled are of the highest standard and I couldn’t recommend them more. I am not one to wax lyrical if I don’t think it’s deserved but on this occasion I couldn’t have asked for more. If you want even more you could make a day of it, Guildford also offers a good range of shops, walks and even a castle to explore – what more could you want?
Review by Liz Lickiss
Lotty’s War Tour Dates
15th to the 20th September Malvern Theatre
22nd to the 27th September Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
2nd to 4th October Manchester Opera House
13th to 18th October Cheltenham Everyman
20th to 25th October Richmond Theatre
27th to 1st November Forum Theatre, Billingham
4th to 8th November Orchard Theatre, Dartford
10th to 15th November Exeter Northcott Theatre
Foolow on Twitter @LottysWar
Sunday 14th September 2014