In Nazi occupied Guernsey, Jeanne Becquet is faced with the hard task of protecting her exuberant and dysfunctional family with her Jewish daughter in-law Lily and daughter Estelle. With the arrival of ominous German Major Von Pfunz and mysterious Gabriel, the Becquet’s family cracks soon become apparent as the story unfolds.
The set was the Becquet’s simple house, one bedroom and a kitchen, with the dark and sombre sea surrounding. The floors were slanted, alluding to the dysfunctional nature of the family within the constraints of the house; and the basic and bare nature of the home was all selected with necessity. The overall design by Carla Goodman was quirky and distorted, with the costume tying into the personality of the characters and their story. The lighting design by Will Evans was changeable and emotive, while also creating the illusion of an isolated house by the sea in Guernsey.
The original music, composed by Maria Haik Escudero, brought a sensory experience to the play, particularly when Gabriel was experiencing his fits. The white noise and electronic effects gave an insight into what was happening to him. Escudero’s climatic compositions felt tied into the very structure of the production, mirroring the character’s inner emotions through electronic and classical arrangements.
Belinda Lang as Jeanne Becquet was dominant and dynamic from the moment she stepped on the stage; her presence and centered intention on her family felt authentic. Paul McCann as General Von Pfunz was intimidating and curious, with layers of his past left unknown. Robin Morrissey as Gabriel embodied the desolation and innocent nature of the character, while Sarah Schoenbeck as Lily was delicate, strong and vulnerable. Yet Venice van Someren as Estelle felt over-the-top with unnatural and exaggerated physical movements.
The ensemble worked well together, with fluid movement and interactions, portraying the dark and layered Becquet family. Jules Melvin as Lake, was perhaps written in a representation of the status or wealth of the Becquet family – her lines felt lost at times and the general presence of the character was unclear.
The production was well rounded and thought-provoking, with a curious air of mystery in the theatre as the audience filtered out and whispered about possible outcomes and truths in the story. Writer Moira Buffini cleverly constructed an enigmatic tale in which the audience are left perplexed and mesmerised as to the truth of Gabriel and the intensity of the tale.
Gabriel is running until 1 April at the Richmond Theatre.