Review: Kindertransport, by Diane Samuels, Deben Players, Seckford Theatre, until September 10

Eva, aged nine, the central figure in Kindertransport

Eva, aged nine, the central figure in Kindertransport - Credit: Archant

Deben Players present a moving and poignant production of Diane Samuels’ Kindertransport. It is powerful play that explores the extraordinary evacuation of thousands of Jewish children from Nazi Germany through the experience of one child, Eva.

Evelyn, the older Eva, in the Deben Players production of Kindertransport

Evelyn, the older Eva, in the Deben Players production of Kindertransport - Credit: Archant

A child at a Nottingham railway station waits day after day for her parents to join her. They never arrive. “War breaks promises,” says Lil Miller, the woman who becomes Eva’s mother. This heart breaking truth, said in such a matter of fact way, lays the path ahead. After a war nothing is ever the same again and wounds never truly heal. Survival takes on many forms, so Eva becomes Evelyn and her past identity is exiled to a cardboard box in an attic.

This is a play about women, mothers and sacrifice. All the performances are committed and directed with pace and real feeling. Eva Balding as the 9 year old Eva is simply quite astonishing. Her presence on stage is exceptionally strong as is her natural characterisation, German speaking and accent. Her delivery is both nuanced and technically beyond her years. She is utterly believable in the role and develops her character intelligently as play progresses. Olivia France as Helga, Eva’s “German mother”, who has to send her child away, provides the production with a powerfully emotional central core. The past is so tangibly created through these two performances that in the end it is Evelyn’s present that seems to become the half formed shadow that lingers and therein lies her heart breaking tragedy.

The past is surrounded by a set of suitcases, the present by boxes, labelled and ready for moving . The production captures the transient movement of life both natural and unnatural and as Cathy May as Lil, Eva’s “English mother” moves between the two worlds with resilience and humour it is clear Eva was truly one of the lucky ones. However “luck” becomes an ambiguous term when survival is played out against such horror. Deben Players have produced a strong and very much welcomed production and it is good to see such an established and well supported non-professional company presenting such a diverse programme.

Jackie Montague

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