Framed by the vast ornate proscenium arch of the Richmond Theatre, Kindertransport by Diane Samuels played to a packed audience. Put on to the mark the 75th Anniversary of Kindertransport, director Andrew Hall’s Kindertransport is both moving and heart wrenching. It tells the story of how nine year old Eva (show stealing Gabrielle Dempsey) escapes Nazi Germany and impending war by travelling to safety on the kindertransport. She leaves behind her Mutti, Helga (touchingly played by Emma Deegan) and her Jewish identity.
Hall relies on the subtleties of the script to stage this production, which gives the viewer the room to fully consume the themes the play emotes. It is a play of loss, escape, love, identity, fear and secrets. The eerie set evokes uncertainty and within it, like the boxes of old belongings that Faith (a strong debut by Rosie Holden) uncovers, so too are the secrets of her mother’s past.
The unravelling of the past is interjected by the reactions to this revelation in the present. Hall places Eva next to her older self Evelyn (Janet Dibley) at the end of the first act, which imprints a powerful image. Hall is often unafraid of toying with our suspension of disbelief by letting a figure from the past remain in the space whilst the present continues, highlighting the question, can we ever escape our own history.
This is play not focused solely on the history of Kindertransport but more on the very human realities that affected the individual born from such an unnatural separation.
Kindertransport is more than a kitchen sink drama, although the staging is very traditional, it is an affirmation of the past. And this is why Samuels play still rings true to today’s audience. When a determined Evelyn rips up all of her photos and letters, a distraught Faith cries “Who is going to take care of their memory?” It is Diana Samuels’s Kindertransport that allows that memory to be retold.