Gabriel is a play set during the 1940’s in Nazi-occupied Guernsey, written by Moira Buffini. It was designed to tell an enthralling, and in parts, comic story of how a family’s life is turned completely upside down, after the body of a man is washed ashore. In some ways, the play succeeds in doing this.
Gabriel’s enclosed setting of Becquet’s farmhouse creates a tension that pervades throughout. The play focuses on four female characters, all of whom are very different in terms of their behaviour. However, they all continuously grip onto a sense of normality in the face of such challenging circumstances. It is remarkable how director, Kate McGregor has added such a poetic yet devastating element to the play’s narrative. This really kept the audience intrigued.
The protagonist, Von Pfunz, performed by Paul McGann, was undoubtedly the star of the show due to his uncanny ability to inject both tension and humour into the play. Belinda Lang who played the character of Jeanne Becquet, also proved capable of doing this and was perhaps the most entertaining character throughout the play.
Character development within Gabriel took a while to manifest. It wasn’t until the play reached its climax and the true identities of Gabriel and Lily were revealed, placing them in danger of German officer Major Von Pfunz, that the play really took flight.
Nevertheless, the interactions between the characters remained intact throughout. Whether it was Becquet cavorting around on a drunken rant towards Estelle and Lily, or Von Pfunz exposing the audience to his infectious laughter due to Becquet’s erratic personality. Judging by the reactions of the audience, this play certainly provided them with a means of entertainment.
All in all, this depiction of a family trying to protect their freedom, their identities and their land entails a strong female perspective during a wartime period which, otherwise, would tend to focus more on a male experience of conflict. Despite a few limitations, this female perspective is displayed through Gabriel in both a rather impressive and varied way.
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