DramaReviewSouth East

Kindertransport – New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Writer: Diane Samuels

Director: Anne Simon

Reviewer: Molly Richardson

Kindertransportsounds joyful, like kindergarten or Kinder Surprise eggs; but the reality is the polar opposite, for this was the term used when thousands of children were sent away from their families in Germany ahead of the Second World War in order to escape the Nazi regime.

The story begins in Hamburg, 1938 when nine-year-old Eva is forced onto a train by her desperate mother, who hopes she’ll be safer in England; flash forward to Manchester, 1980 when proud mum Evelyn is preparing to say goodbye to her daughter Faith as she packs in preparation to leave the family home. Though Faith soon uncovers a lifelong mystery in the attic that changes everything.

It’s both a heart-breaking and heart-warming piece. Living in a time when we know the full history of the awful period that was World War II, it’s a tough pill to swallow when seeing a focus on one story that we know thousands of others experienced and it’s sad knowing that Evelyn’s past life as Eva has never really left her. However, it’s also deeply moving, as it showcases a reality of family relations and what it’s like to try and comprehend a difficult past.

At times, the script can be confusing and hard-to-follow when the time periods jump between past and present, but generally it’s a well-thought-out play, Directed brilliantly by Anne Simon and you can tell writer Diane Samuels poured a lot into it when first written 25 years ago, taking facts and sharing an important story.

With a cast of six, the talent is strong. Suzan Sylvester as Evelyn is packed full of punch as she relieves the painful ghosts and memories of her childhood and is forced to deal with the one thing she’s always tried to block out in aid of her own sanity and for her daughter to know the truth. When watching the life she led as Eva – as brilliantly portrayed by Lelia Schaus, with such a beautiful innocence and angst  – you really feel for her character. Even when shown so clearly, it’s still hard to fully resonate with how difficult the situation must have been.

Hannah Bristow as Faith is everything a teenager should be, she’s lost and confused, torn between head and heart. On the one-hand she wants to be an independent adult, on the other she can’t let go. On discovering her mother’s truth, she demands answers with a raging fire, and the tough but underlying sweet relationship she shares with her Mother and Grandmother is a great representation of many family relations.

Jenny Lee as Lil is the only character that appears to have changed the least throughout, but she carries a charm that’s hard to not adore. Understudy Claire Thill was playing the role of Helga at this performance, and Matthew Brown as Ratcatcher/Ensemble both gave equally brilliant performances in their respective supporting roles.

The creative team of Designer Marie-Luce Theis, Lighting Designer Nic Farman and Sound Designer Adrienne Quartly have created a single set piece that is subtly interchangeable, along with props and costumes to match. It’s nothing particularly special, but each little change perfectly sets the scene. One minute you feel a cold chill of tension, the next you sigh with relief.

Overall, it’s a powerful, thought-provoking and gripping piece of theatre that focuses on an important part of history, resulting in a worthy watch, but it seemed to lack a certain spark.

Runs until 21 April 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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