by John Welch.
Tristan Bates Theatre 1a Tower Street WC2H 9NP To 21 September 2013.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7240 6283.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 September.
Large themes in moving small-scale drama.
Pipeline Theatre’s play seems very much a family, or two family, affair. By the end it is even more evidently so, in its action as in its creators. Transports arrives as a revival of Diane Samuels’ 1993 play Kindertransport is due. The two complement each other.
Troubled teenager Dinah starts by seeing Lotte as a tedious old German-Jewish woman trying to do good by fostering her in 1980s Suffolk. Angry and self-destructive, Dinah’s power fantasies at her new school contrast actual victimization as, isolated, rebelliously smoking, she retreats to the vertical rail-track sections of Alan Munden’s set – suggesting solidity and transience – for both assertion and protection, repeatedly trying to confirm her low self-esteem by making Lotte reject her.
But Lotte has known worse. What is a brick through the window, in retaliation against Dinah, to someone who remembers the Kristallnacht smashing of Jewish windows across Nazi Germany? Both women’s minds echo with past horrors.
Survival, and the renewal of life, are important. It turns out so for Lotte’s cat Oskar, an important unseen character, and for Dinah. After an action surprisingly compacted within a week, the bittersweet end brings two theatrical coups that lift the spirits (or tug at the heartstrings, according to taste) while revealing the story’s grounding in reality.
Juliet Welch’s Lotte starts on a busily comic note which takes time to settle into the more rounded character of someone patient and resilient – though the early comic gabble and searching through a handbag’s contents reflect a helpful busy-ness and humour in Jon Welch’s script and production.
Anna Munden dons specs for wartime flashbacks, as serious young Lotte, conscientiously learning English in the house where she gradually earns respect, before the authorities resettle her in a Jewish neighbourhood.
As the troubled Dinah, all defiance and refusal, Munden catches the inner flames of resentment, in furiously defiant eyes, and telling details like excessive make-up and inability to handle knife and fork. It’s a blazing performance of an incandescent character, no less intense as Lotte gradually helps her accept the person within the protectively constructed façade of a monster.
Dinah/Young Lotte: Anna Munden.
Lotte/Mrs Weston/Lotte’s Mother: Juliet Welch.
Director: Jon Welch.
Designer: Alan Munden.
Costume: Jude Munden.