Celebrated actor Paul McGann has eagerly seized the chance to play Nazi Commander Von Pfunz in Moira Buffini’s play Gabriel in a new touring production for 2017.
McGann – best known for his roles in Withnail & I, Doctor Who and The Monocled Mutineer – “can’t wait” to begin the run of Gabriel, which is supported by Bruno Wang Productions.
According to an interview in the Eastbourne Herald, McGann said: “It’s a fascinating piece. It’s dark and intense, a real thriller, exciting and incredibly gripping.”
Gabriel is a thrilling wartime mystery, set in Nazi-occupied Guernsey. Widow and mother Jeanne (played by Belinda Lang) will do whatever she must to keep her adolescent daughter Estelle and daughter-in-law Lily safe on Guernsey in 1943, including managing the romantic advances of the terrifying Commander Von Pfunz.
Tensions heighten when a mysterious young man is washed ashore with no memory of who he is. Fluent in German and English, is he an RAF pilot, an SS interrogator, a local boy with amnesia or a saviour sent from heaven?
Explains McGann: “Guernsey in the middle of the Second World War is a great place to set a story. On the face of it, it was a peaceful occupation. There was no armed resistance nor any uprisings. However, food was scarce, there was a thriving black market, and plenty of wheeling and dealing going on. Most of the men of fighting age were away so it was mainly women left on the island.”
Von Pfunz’s relationship with the widow Jeanne sounds terrifying: “He’s not a nice man, in fact he’s horrible, and he comes on to Jeanne much to her disgust. She is repulsed by him and is quite fearful of him, but there is a courage about her that he finds thrilling and intoxicating. It throws her completely.”
McGann is full of praise for playwright Moira Buffini: “It’s the way Moira beautifully weaves these situations and tensions together that is so good. It’s brilliantly told.”
His theatrical tour debut is exciting him: “Doing TV and film is great, and I’ve been jammy enough over the years to do a lot of it, but when you go out on stage and feel the atmosphere and get that instant feedback from the audience, you just can’t beat it.”
The production, directed by Kate McGregor (Moments, Chichester Festival Theatre), will tour Richmond, Liverpool, Cardiff, Windsor, Guildford, Clywd and Eastbourne.