BY DIANE SAMUELS
In November 1938 in reaction to the “Kristallnacht”, the growing violence against Jews, Social Democrats and Bolsheviks and the rising Nazi threat, the British government made available permits for children – and only children – from Germany, Austria and other Nazi-occupied territories in Europe to enter the UK safely. Before World War II erupted, nearly 10.000 youngsters, most of them Jewish, had made it to England.
To mark the 80th anniversary of that rescue operation – which became known as the “Kindertransport” – the Théâtres de la Ville are embarking on an international collaboration to produce Diane Samuels’ play inspired by those events. Anne Simon will direct a mixed cast and work with an international team on a production that is set to be performed in the UK and in Luxembourg. Kindertransport approaches the experience of surviving the Holocaust from the unusual perspective of a child who thankfully escapes its horrors but pays a heavy price long after it is over.
Tagged like a piece of luggage, Eva Schlesinger leaves her mother in Hamburg and travels to England, where the well-meaning Lil takes over her upbringing. Little by little, the distraught child grows into a reserved young woman. Her accent fades. And so, presumably, do the old traumas but also her connection with her roots. As a result, she finds a way to cope that redefines her sense of self and creates a new identity. These processes profoundly affect the relationships between all the women in the play. When her own daughter, Faith, preparing to move out of the family home, discovers a box carefully tucked away in the attic, she uncovers links to Eva Schlesinger from all those years before.
With its profound drama of separation, cultural and linguistic dislocation, painful loss of one family then formation of another, and with its attendant sense of betrayal and guilt, Kindertransport draws a simple yet truthful portrait of one child in one time that easily expands to many similar experiences across history. It is even more relevant today than ever.
Directed by Anne Simon
Designer Marie-Luce Theis
Lighting Designer Nic Farman
Sound Designer Adrienne Quartly
Cast Hannah Bristow, Matthew Brown, Catherine Janke, Jenny Lee, Leila Schaus, Suzan Sylvester
Translation & preparation of the text Richard Neel
Surtitle operator Clive Thomas
Co-production Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg & Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
In association with Selladoor Productions