Kindertransport at the Opera House, Manchester

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Les Theatres de la Ville de Luxembourg in association with Selladoor Productions present Kindertransport by Diane Samuels. Directed by Anne Simon. Designed by Marie-Luce Theis.

A deeply moving and timely modern classic about a woman’s struggle to come to terms with her past.

Hamburg 1938: nine year-old Eva is forced onto a train by her desperate mother in order to escape the threat of World War II. Arriving at Liverpool Street Station, tagged like a piece of luggage, she’s handed over to strangers.

London 1980: Evelyn, a proud mum, prepares to say goodbye to daughter Faith as she leaves the family home. But what Faith finds in the attic will change her life forever…

This heart-warming production is from the producers of last year’s acclaimed revival of The Crucible. It marks the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, which saw thousands of Jewish children ferried from Austria and Germany to safety.

Diane Samuels wrote this extraordinary and haunting play 25 years ago. It has never been more relevant than today.

Caroline Salmon and her neice, Maisie (15), went to review Kindertransport for us on Tuesday 1st May 2018 at the Opera House, Manchester. This is what they had to say about the powerful drama…

The auntie’s point of view…

With very little knowledge of the historical context of this play, I was looking forward to learning more about how Jewish children were evacuated to England at the outbreak of World War 2. The play sensitively led us through these events via the story of a young girl, Eva, played skilfully by Leila Schaus who convincingly began the play at the age of nine and transformed throughout it into an 18 year old young lady at the end. Her characterisation was outstanding, although her strong German accent was a little difficult to understand at first, this became easier to understand and mellowed as the time moved on and as Eva learnt more English.

The opening scene took place in an attic but, rather than changing scenery, the set itself proved to be versatile enough to enable the recreation of railway platforms whenever required. Lighting focussed our eyes onto the different actors and scenes as the plot developed allowing some characters to remain on stage. This proved a very effective way to show the passage of time and was important so that I could follow which parts were ‘flashbacks’ or jumps to the present day. Characters often stayed on stage to appear as ‘memories’ or ‘younger selves’ and, rather than distracting from the main scene, enhanced them as I found myself considering the emotions of the characters more deeply.

Hannah Bristow plays a young woman who has a difficult relationship with her mother but is supported by her grandmother, played brilliantly by Jenny Lee, who was my favourite character. She tries to bridge the gap between her daughter and granddaughter and she does so with humour and understanding. This delicate mother/ daughter balance is thrown into chaos when events from the past catch up with them all. The mother, Evelyn, played by Susan Sylvester, developed dramatically towards the end and everything began to ‘drop into place’ for me as I quickly began to warm to her character much more than at the beginning. I also felt very disconnected to the character of Helga, Eva’s mother, who was played by Catherine Janke.  Again, this is clearly a testament to the actor’s skill, as I realised that this was the intention. As a mum myself, I could identify with the range of feelings and situations the women find themselves in but their unique situation was also enhanced by shadows from the past, the dangers that lurk within them, the decisions made during and how they had affected their lives.

I found this performance extremely moving, with a well – developed balance between humour and emotion. I would definitely recommend that you take this journey, as it is well worth a trip.

Score 8/10 ****

Caroline Salmon (Auntie) Trusted Reviewer from Holcombe Brook

The neice’s point of view…

I didn’t know what to expect from this play but wanted to see something different. It was difficult to understand what was going on at first and the accents were hard to get used to but it didn’t take long to realise that we were going to discover this story bit by bit. I really enjoyed the performance of the little girl and thought she must have worked hard to speak in German sometimes, as well as play a child and a teenager.

I could relate well to the character of Faith who wants some independence but doesn’t want to leave home and argues with her mum. It seemed very realistic. I enjoyed the laid back but caring attitude of her Grandma, particularly when she showed Eva how to smoke.

The male actor played some different characters, some light-hearted and some, such as the ‘rat-catcher’ very dark and threatening, which helped to move the story on. It showed how frightened Eva was and the fact that he kept re- appearing showed me that she never forgot her fears.

I learnt a lot during this play and found it easy to understand the motivations of the characters and why they behaved the way they did. I would definitely recommend it for other drama students to see how actors portray characters with hidden history, warmth, caring and even with a lack of emotion. I’m glad I went to see Kindertransport and really enjoyed it.

Score 8/10 ****

Maisie White (Niece) Trusted Reviewer from Holcombe Brook

Auntie’s Score – 8/10
Niece’s Score – 8/10

Total Score – 16/20 ****

Kindertransport is on in Manchester until May 5th 2018. You can purchase tickets by clicking on the link below:



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