Downtown Abbey actress in wartime thriller

Mat Ruttle and Victoria Emslie in Lotty's War at Chesterfield's Pomegranate Theatre.
Mat Ruttle and Victoria Emslie in Lotty's War at Chesterfield's Pomegranate Theatre.

Passion, courage and sacrifice in wartime are the themes of a star-studded production.

Lotty’s War, which is touring to Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre next week, is set in enemy-occupied Channel Islands during the Second World War.

With the last boat to England gone, Lotty is housed in close quarters with the enemy. As loyalties waver amidst the temptations of forbidden love and the politics of war, does Lotty dare to tread a passionate and dangerous path to save a friend?

The production stars Victoria Enslie from Downton Abbey, Ian Reddington from Coronation Street and Mat Ruttle from War Horse.

Giuliano Crispini, who wrote the play, said: “I grew up in Guernsey, playing in the old German bunkers, reluctantly going to the occupation museum on school trips, always hearing people go on about it.

“It wasn’t until years later, whilst I was on a trip back there and I drove past one of the many grey German gun emplacements that I thought, ‘Blimey, this place was actually invaded by ruthless Nazis armed to the teeth, and it really wasn’t that long ago, loads of their things are still here.

“I had always been taught facts at school, but never had I understood the human impact, what it meant for real people.

“I took out lots of books from the library written by islanders and the more I read, the more I realised how much information was missing.

“People who experienced the occupation didn’t want to remember the bad things that went on, certainly the questionable actions by islanders, so I researched further.

“I ended up travelling to Germany, Poland, Leeds, London on research trips until I ended up back in Guernsey in the Priaulx Library where all the oldest texts, books and documents are kept. It was there that, hidden away in a box, uncatalogued and unseen, the librarian and I found pages and pages of a diary written on tomato packing paper. There in those diaries I had a day by day account of what it was like for someone to live through the occupation. After that the play sort of wrote itself.”

Lotty’s War runs in Chesterfield from July 4 to 9.