REVIEW OF KINDERTRANSPORT AT GRAND THEATRE

Familiar to many ARA City Radio listeners already, Luxembourg theatre director Anne Simon is back in town with a new production; “Kindertransport” is at the Grand Théâtre this week and is receiving rave reviews after its run in London and opening night in Luxembourg, and justifiably so, as it is a powerful piece of drama. A collaboration between the Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, although a traumatic and emotionally charged story, human resilience and humour shine through.

 “Kindertransport” is a production that is as relevant to audiences today as it ever was, it relates to the plight of displaced children, specifically the programme that allowed thousands of Jewish children to escape Nazi Germany by travelling to Britain in the year before outbreak of WWII.

Opening in the Hamburg home of a tense Jewish family dealing with impending departure to England of their 9-year old daughter, Luxembourg actress Leila Schaus plays the central role of the 9-year old Jewish girl Eva. The tense yet tender scenes between Eva and her mother played by German actress Catherine Janke, foreshadow what is to come later in their story.  Parallel to this story is one that takes place 50 years later in England, where a teenage Faith, (Hannah Bristow) is at odds with her Evelyn, her mother (Suzan Sylvester). Grandmother Lil (Jenny Lee) tries to keep the peace between mother and daughter, but when Faith finds a box of unusual keepsakes, the lid is opened on a story that affects them all.

Moving between the Hamburg home and an attic in Manchester, Bristow is the ultimate stroppy teenager, fiery, protective and petulant in one. Lee is all present as the empathetic earth-mother/grandma and as Evelyn, Sylvester commands, falls apart and pulls the character back from the brink with amazing skill. And although the family relationships seem all too normal from a present day perspective, the shadows of the past are never far away.

Key to the success of this production was Luxembourg set-designer Marie-Lucas Theis' clever set  that worked as an attic, a railway carriage and railways stations in different countries. Only through the set was the production able to merge the two time periods successfully.

This success of this play is not simply the sympathetic portrayal of one event, but the sensitive approach to a number of universal themes, such as, integration, family bonds, childhood trauma and dealing with the consequences of the choices we make. Ironically perhaps, the story rings as true today as it ever did, with so many displaced people across Europe worried about their status.

“Kindertransport” at Grand Théâtre on 28, 30 and 31 March.