The Lucky Ones

Charlotte Eilenberg

Hampstead Theatre

(2002)

Review by Philip Fisher

The "Lucky Ones" of the title are children who escaped from Nazi Germany through Kindertransport. We first meet the two German-accented couples in Dick Bird's vibrantly bright garden in 1968. Even over thirty years after their arrival in England, they are still trying to come to terms with their heritage and their lives in England.

Bruno (David Horovitch) and Anna (Margot Leicester) have assimilated but still feel excessive gratitude to the country that has taken them in. By contrast, Leo (Anton Lesser) and Ottilie (Michelle Newell) consider themselves to be outsiders and Leo in particular wishes to fight an invisible enemy that is largely within himself.

Into the happily bickering group comes an Aryan German, Lisa,( Kelly Hunter). She has offered to purchase a shack that the Jews jointly own. It is soon apparent that this cottage is a symbol that mirrors the Jews' lives in England.

After some hilarious debate between Bruno and Leo regarding business ethics, a deal is struck with Lisa. However, Leo cannot let go and insists that she makes a public apology for the behaviour of her countrymen 25 years before. An argument ensues and Lisa disappears but does not forget this experience and eventually buys the cottage.

The second act, set today, starts with a eulogy given by Leo's son, Daniel (James Clyde) at his father's funeral. He is a bitter man who seems as determined as his father was to rage against the world and the man who brought him into it.

As the family reaches home after the funeral it is apparent that the children are set to become replicas of their parents, as they had of theirs. What makes this interesting is that people with the same personalities have very different views a generation later. Daniel has married and divorced an Arab, a parallel but very different form of protest from that of his father.

An argument to match that in the first act takes place as Lisa returns and offers symbolic reparations. At the same time, it becomes clear why she wishes to. An immediate consequence is the need for the remaining members of the family to reevaluate their collective past.

A final, somewhat redundant act fills in some of the gaps of the previous 30 years showing that eventually enemies can lie down together.

Under Matthew Lloyd's sure direction, each member of the cast gives a good performance, in particular, all five members of the older generation. Charlotte Eilenberg is very lucky to have such a cast for her first play and her witty dialogue, particularly in the first act, is beautifully and painstakingly written.

The overall feeling of guilt felt by these Germans through the generations, whether Jews or not, is very convincingly and movingly portrayed. One hopes that after writing such a good first play, Charlotte Eilenberg will carry on to become prolific.