by Moira Buffini
Richmond Theatre and then on tour.
4-8 April, Liverpool Playhouse; 11-15 April, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne; 19-22 April Theatre Clwyd; 24-29 April Theatre Royal, Windsor; 8-13 May, Greenwich Theatre; 15-20 May Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guilford.
Review: William Russell 31 March.
The mystery man who fell to earth
It is spring 1942. Guernsey has been occupied by the Germans for two years and Jeanne Becquet, ousted from her family home by the local commandant is living in an old farmhouse. With her are her precocious ten year old daughter Estelle, who is totally out of control, and her daughter-in law Lily, who is Jewish, and whose husband is missing in action. Jeanne will do anything to survive from dealing in the black market to sleeping with the commandant. But there is a new man in town, Von Pfunz, whom she finds repulsive and mistakenly thinks cannot speak English. He finds her desirable.
On day Lily and Estelle find a young man lying comatose on the beach. They think he is the pilot of a British plane brought down earlier in the day and bring him home. When he comes round they discover he has lost his memory speaks both English and German fluently. They see him as an angel fallen from heaven, hence Gabriel.
But is he a British or, as Von Pfunz, who finds out he is in the house, think an SS officer lost en route to a posting on the neighbouring Alderney?
The ingredients of a thrilling plot are there, but Moira Buffini, whose first play written in 1997 this is, embarks on lots of talk about good versus evil, what is permissible to survive in wartime and horrors in the death camps without actually moving the story along. There is also, some incredibly stupid behaviour by Estelle, who adores Gabriel and takes against Von Pfunz daubing his rooms in her family home with graffiti in the dead of night and urinating in his best boots.
The play seesaws all over the place never quite making up its mind where it is going. Paul McGann, given a terrible haircut, which conceals the fact he is actually slightly decayed drop dead gorgeous, creates a suitably conflicted monster. Belinda Lang hits all the right notes as the determined to survive Jeanne and Venice Van Someren’s Estelle is the best ever excuse for a smacked bottom. It ends with a blood stained corpse, someone landed with being the fall guy for the crime and Jeanne – which is giving nothing away – carrying on regardless. People like her do.
The set by Carla Goodman, all askewed angles, is impressive and the play, directed by Kate McGregor, passes the time mildly interestingly, but whether it deserved resurrection is another matter. The plight of the islanders during the occupation deserved better.
Von Pfunz: Paul McGann.
Jeanne Becquet: Belinda Lang.
Lake: Jules Melvin.
Gabriel: Robin Morrisey.
Lily: Sarah Schoenbeck.
Estelle Becquet: Venice Van Someren.
Director: Kate McGregor.
Designer: Carla Goodman.
Lighting Designer: Will Evans.
Music Composer: Maria Haik Escudero.
Sound Designer: David Gregory.
Fight Director: Philip D’Orleans.