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Living with the enemy

PUBLISHED: 16:44 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 17:24 16 August 2010

THE occupation of France and other European countries during World War II has taken precedence in the history books but little in comparison is recorded about the plight of the tiny Channel Isles and their fight against the Nazis, writes Kate Mead.

THE occupation of France and other European countries during World War II has taken precedence in the history books but little in comparison is recorded about the plight of the tiny Channel Isles and their fight against the Nazis, writes Kate Mead.

Even the Guernsey-bred writer of Lotty's War, currently showing at the Greenwich Playhouse theatre, admits that his knowledge of this part of his homeland's history was patchy.

"I suddenly realised how little I knew of the Nazi occupation, a period of our very recent history that shaped the island and its people into who we are today," said Guiliano Crispini.

After 18 months of research, his gem of a play was born - a story about a girl who struggles to come to terms with sharing her house and her life with the enemy.

Dubbed a "forbidden love story", it is also an examination of how relationships and personalities change in the quest for survival.

Teenage Lotty, played passionately by Katie Howell, finds her grief for her father interrupted with the arrival of an intimidating Nazi General who threatens to destroy not only her morality but her reputation.

Howell was incredibly engrossing as the feisty Lotty, giving such truth to the role despite some of the character's most questionable actions.

Nurturing her character's immaturity, Howell's Lotty finds herself overwhelmed with the romance of the haves while almost forgetting the have-nots.

But despite her immature, sometimes irrational, behaviour Lotty elicits extraordinary pathos as it becomes clear her Nazi General, or the more human Rolf (Michael Fenner), is just as lonely as she is.

Fenner's performance was enough to make the hair stand on end, and that was not just the uniform, his authoritative presence giving way at moments to vulnerable sensitivity - but just not enough to stop him acting on orders.

With the right timing, Fenner was able to convey some touching humour and was even unflinching from character during a props malfunction.

Lotty's 'Guern' friend Ben was perhaps the less layered character of this three-hander but was played with conviction by James Joyce.

Most impressive about this production, directed by Iain Davie for Channel Productions Guernsey, was the attention to detail - from steaming tea and a convincing set to sound and lighting cues that propelled you into the 1940s.

How disappointing however, that at the climactic scene with the coming together of all three characters, the sound was neither dramatic nor realistic.

With this exception, Lotty's War was a venerable drama and a thought-provoking homage to those forgotten islanders who fought their own personal battles for freedom.

Lotty's War is at the Greenwich Playhouse until December 7. Performances are at 7.30pm from Tuesday to Saturday with a 4pm matinee on Sunday. Tickets on 020 8858 9256 or by email at boxoffice@galleontheatre.co.uk.

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