Kindertransport

Diane Samuels

Ocatgon Theatre, Bolton

(2004)

Review by David Chadderton

Between 1938 and 1939, ten thousand mainly Jewish children were given away by their parents and transported to Britain to escape from Nazi-controlled Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Austria. Many of the parents of these children perished in the hands of the Nazis. The operation was known as "Kindertransport".

Diane Samuels's play looks at one of these children and how the experience affects her in adulthood, and also how her own daughter is affected by these events. Eva (Claire Redcliffe as a child; Janice McKenzie as an adult) is put on a train by her mother Helga (Anna Northam) in Germany and arrives in England to be fostered by Lil (Ann Rye). When she is sixteen, Eva changes her name to Evelyn, becomes naturalised as a British citizen and blocks out her German past completely, even from her daughter Faith (Christabel Fellowes); that is, until Faith finds a box of letters and photographs in the attic that seem to show that her mother is not the person she believed her to be.

The whole play is set in an attic room, but Dawn Allsopp's superbly striking set takes a symbolic approach to portraying this location. The stage is dominated by a huge pile of trunks and suitcases - with the occasional teddy bear - forming a steep staircase to an upper platform. The wooden floor has a design in it resembling railway lines, which lead to the door, and even the footlights shine from inside a suitcase. Both the present-day action and the flashes back take place in the same space, sometimes at the same time, and this set, lit superbly by Thomas Weir, works very well for this. Alexander Delamere's original music is nicely atmospheric.

Photo  by Ian Tilton from Kindertransport