Tensions and terror in Nazi-occupied Guernsey

Gabriel is at the Windsor Theatre Royal from Monday, April 24 – Saturday, April 29

James Harrison

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James Harrison

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Tensions and terror in Nazi-occupied Guernsey

What would you do to survive? How far would you go?

These were the questions hanging over the Channel Islands in the 1940s.

With the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht closing in, the islands became the only part of the British Isles to fall under German occupation during the Second World War.

Into this dangerous mix is thrust mother and widow Jeanne, played by 2point4 Children actress Belinda Lang, who is forced down ever darker avenues as she tries to protect her daughter Estelle and daughter-in-law Lily.

The family’s situation is only complicated further when a mysterious young man washes up on the beach – fluent in both German and English and with no memory of who he is, could he be salvation, or damnation?

And looming large over everything is the sinister Commander Von Pfunz, played by Doctor Who and Withnail and I actor Paul McGann.

For some it might be difficult to imagine an actor as well known as McGann playing the archetype Nazi baddie.

But according to Lang, our own perceptions of the conflict mean there is little work for the imagination to do, once he has donned his jackboots.

She said: “I’ve never worked with Paul before, but actors are supposed to be able to do different things.

“I would say his biggest challenge was to become grotesque.

“The moment you put that uniform on it’s extraordinary what happens.”

More than half a century after the end of the war, its significance is yet to dim.

As Lang said: “Our kids are still being taken to concentration camps and my daughter feels it was a very important part of her education. I think it’s important that we keep reminding ourselves about it. I don’t think it’s a subject that people are going to tire of.”

But while the theme might be an old one, the story this time around is one which is likely to be less familiar.

Lang said: ​“It [the occupation of Guernsey] is not something that gets talked about. It was not a happy period.

“Some people were perceived to have collaborated and there’s terrible bitterness which has lasted for generations. It has not been an easy subject to tackle.”

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