Kindertransport: Diane Samuels
Runs: 2h 0m: one interval: till 20 October
Your heart is breaking in the first five minutes of the play.
The stage for Kindertransport is almost bare throughout save for a mountain of suitcases, trunks and what not. This is an attic, the setting for most of the play. But playwright’s intention or not, that mountain might also remind us of those pictures from Auschwitz of the abandoned possessions of people who perished there.
Concerned as it is with the evacuation of Jewish children from Germany to Britain just before the war, Kindertransport is rewarding to watch, yet harrowing, especially because it centres on a small family of credible people.
The action shifts back and forth, from the thirties and forties, when we see Eva as a child refugee and later as an adolescent, to the eighties, when she’s an adult re-named Evelyn, living in Manchester with a daughter of her own.
Your heart is breaking in the first minutes of the play. But Kindertransport goes on to show the bewilderment that can go with loss – of parents, of children, of home and cultural identity – and the life-long psychological damage associated with all these. The daughter says to Evelyn, “You can’t even go on a train without hyperventilating!”
A terrifying comparison is made between the Holocaust and the Pied Piper legend (harsh version). The Piper himself is The Rat Catcher, the stuff of nightmare; confused in the mind of a child with Adolf Hitler.
Eva is played by Jenny Walser, who never overdoes the nine-year-old and is subtle about the transformation from nine to self-assertive 17-year-old. In the stand-out performance, the adult (now calling herself Evelyn) is played by Cate Hamer. A step-mother, the Manchester woman who takes Eva in, is a convincing Denise Black. She it is who steps between the decades as surrogate mother then grandmother. And Rebecca D’Souza gives a moving performance as Eva’s birth mother, Helga.
This is another fine production from the Nottingham Playhouse’s Associate Director, Fiona Buffini.
Lil: Denise Black
Faith: Elena Breschi
Helga: Rebecca D’Souza
Evelyn: Cate Hamer
The Ratcatcher: Patrick Osborne
Eva: Jenny Walser
Kinder: Flora Bellingham, Evie Beresford, Blaise Bondswell, Robin Edmonds, Isabella Eilbeck, Millie Hunt, Gianluca Gauci, Kacie Wilson
Director: Fiona Buffini
Designer: Madeline Girling
Lighting Designer: Alexandra Stafford
Composer/Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls