While watching three generations of women on stage tell their story, I couldn’t help but think how timely the opening of Queen’s Theatre’s production of Kindertransport is for International Womens’ Day and Mother’s Day.
The production marks 80 years since the Kindertransport which saw thousands of Jewish children ferried from Austria and Germany to safety in the UK.
Kindertransport tells the story of Eva, a young girl who is forced to leave her German parents and travel to England where she is taken in by her foster mother, Lil.
The play flashes between Eva’s past as she struggles to make a new life for herself in Manchester, to moments in the present when Eva is now a mother to her younger daughter, Faith.
When Faith finds letters of her mother’s past in the attic, Eva is forced to revisit some painful memories.
There are heart-breaking moments on stage as we see the difficult choices Eva has to make, both as a young woman and later on in her life when she has new responsibilities as a mother.
Often, the four characters are on stage at the same time, so the audience can see the parallels and differences between the mother and daughter relationships in the war and in 1983.
In addition, the haunting story of the Ratcatcher, played by Matthew Brown, who comes for ungrateful children, adds to play’s themes of growing up and the relationships we form and lose in the process.
Having grown up in the Netherlands which was occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, I remember learning about the Kindertransport and events such as Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass in Dutch and English.
So when I heard about Queen’s Theatre’s production of Kindertransport I was instantly intrigued.
The Second World was a major global event that affected people in many different countries around the world.
Kindertransport deftly takes its audience from Germany to London, then to Manchester.
Not only, are the settings international, but the actors too, as Queen’s Threatre co-produced the play with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
Leila Schaus who plays Eva and Catherine Janke who plays her mother Helga, have backgrounds in Luxembourg.
This factor places more emphasis on the international nature of the story that is being told.
Schaus and Janke are joined by Hannah Bristow as Faith, Suzan Sylvester as Evelyn and Jenny Lee as Lil.
Written by Diane Samuels and directed by Anne Simon, Kindertransport is certainly not one to miss.
The show will be performed until March 24.