Monday, 14 May 2007

Review: Kindertransport

Over at the Hampstead Theatre, Shared Experience is staging Kindertransport by Diane Samuels, a play about the limited evacuation of 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1939. The play is set in the attic of a Manchester house, where Faith, a young woman is going through boxes of crockery and finds some fascinating documents relating to a child from the kindertransport, seemingly placed with her grandmother. This child turns out to be Faith’s mother Evelyn, who has been hiding this part of herself for all of her adult life. We see Evelyn as a child, then called Eva, being prepared for an uncertain future without her mother. The evocation of the past is done very well and simply in Polly Teal’s spare production. The Ratcatcher of Eva’s fairytale books is also evoked as a menacing spirit, but strangely too as a suffering tormented soul, almost representing in some small way the suffering of the Jews in Germany and tormenting young Eva with those thoughts.

This is a very competent play, telling us an awful tale in a succinct fashion. There are no over the top histrionics, just terrible realisations, and sometime that is the most effective way of conveying hell and death. We don’t see piles of dead bodies, but we see how the life of one girl was so extraordinarily changed in the biggest upheaval of the 20th Century.

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