Opening at Brighton Fringe before touring to other festivals, this new play from UK-based US writer Jill Haas – set during the Second World War – feels pertinent in today’s climate, as governments and media fixate on migrants, refugees and other ‘troublesome people’.
Haas spotlights a disparate group affected by the war, but not because they fought in it. Ordered to semi-internment on a farm on a barbed wire-fenced Isle of Man, married conscientious objectors, a German boy and a wealthy German-Jewish woman fleeing Nazi persecution struggle to adapt to lives restricted by their wartime status.
Skilfully directed by Frank Simms, this production captures the look and feel of the time, with bursts of radio evoking the world outside the farmhouse kitchen. A stellar cast brings to life the fractiousness of people thrust together and rebelling. Harry Owens is particularly good as conscientious objector Sam Bankes, mixing conviction with educated smugness.
The play stumbles over exactly how and when to end. But with the Isle of Man as a microcosm, Haas lucidly and compassionately lays out a Britain hardened by war into zealous patriotism and suspicion of ‘foreign’ and dissenting voices, inflamed by a blind-eyed government fudging its response to a complex situation.