2 April 2000

Play 'distorts' collaboration allegations

1.12.90 by Shaun Green

Blatant censorship by the island's authorities preventing islanders from learning the truth about collaboration in the Second World War, according to vet Maurice Kirk and the director of a London play which the Friends of St James Association have refused to sanction.

Association President Conseillor Bob Chilcott says that the play, Theresa, which is about the treatment of Jews in occupied Guernsey is ‘disgusting and inappropriate for production at St James'.

Mr Kirk applied to hire the St James hall for a production of Theresa on 15 and 16 February next year and was asked to submit a copy of the script for examination by the director of St James and the association council.

Mr Chilcott says that the play, which is based on the true story of Theresa Steiner, a Jewish music professor from Vienna living in Guernsey during the Occupation was judged to be ‘disgusting and not the sort of production which St James would wish to put on in its concert hall'.

‘It was so distasteful that the council were not prepared to put any pressure on the director - it was quite clearly not our sort of production'.

The council wrote to Mr Kirk stating that the play was inappropriate and that St James was not technically well enough equipped to stage such a theatrical event.  Mr Chilcott suggested that Mr Kirk apply to Beau Sejour, which would be a more suitable venue.

Mr Kirk says that this is nonsense.  He alleged that the true issue behind the refusal is that the play touches ‘the tip of the iceberg of collaboration'.

Mr Kirk says that while he does not think the play wholly historically accurate, he had met the writer and producer, Julia Pascal, and booked the theatrical company to come to Guernsey in February 1991 before setting off on a European tour.

He agrees that Beau Sejour would be ideal but is fully booked on the dates in question and he has written to parish halls in the hope of finding a venue.

Mr Kirk says that if necessary, he will knock through two partition walls in his surgery to make a room large enough to seat 60 people for the play.

He disputes that the concert hall is not equipped to stage the play.  Having seen the play he believes that, although St James is not ideal, the play could easily be produced there.

Theresa is running at The Garage Theatre in London and has been described by Time Out as a ‘stunning' performance with enough freshness and intelligence to put it in a class of its own.

Director and writer Julia Pascal, the first female direction of the National Theatre, says the decision by St James is ‘horrendous' and an act of direct censorship by Guernsey's authorities.

She is keen and willing to stage the production ‘As it is about Guernsey it seems wholly appropriate to stage it in Guernsey'.

She says that a whole generation of Guernsey people born after the war are  unaware of the true extent of collaboration which, in this case, led to the deportation of at least three Jewish women.

A local military historian who has seen the play in London says ‘while I applaud the efforts of Mr Kirk and Miss Pascal to bring the issue to public notice there are some historical inaccuracies which disturb me.

She says that the play has an ‘awkward balance' of historical fact and writer's licence.

For example, in the play Theresa has a grown-up son who commits suicide yet, in reality, Theresa was only in her twenties during the Occupation.

She says the play addresses a sensitive subject in a distorted fashion which might mislead the non historian.  She would not like to see the play shown in its present form, but welcomes broaching the subject.

Photos and video soon on web after my island visit shortly, heavily disguised.

A little more later, boys and girls,  AFTER THE COMMERCIAL BREAK....