Review: Kindertransport is 'a compelling but not always easy watch'

PUBLISHED: 13:07 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:28 30 April 2019

Maureen Davies as Lil, Kate Humbles as Faith, and Linda Vincent as Evelyn in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Maureen Davies as Lil, Kate Humbles as Faith, and Linda Vincent as Evelyn in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

John Davies

Emily Perry reviews Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

Alice Park as Eva, Maureen Davies as Lil, and Ray Newton as Station Guard in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesAlice Park as Eva, Maureen Davies as Lil, and Ray Newton as Station Guard in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Kindertransport, now playing at the Barn Theatre, is a poignant and reflective piece of theatre.

Written in 1993 by Diane Samuels, it tells the story of Eva (Alice Park), a nine-year-old little Jewish girl who was sent to England, and safety, on the Kindertransport.

The action begins in Hamburg in 1938 where Helga (Olga Kennedy) is spending her final hours with her daughter Eva before she boards the train to England.

The child's fear and anxiety about the lonely journey is made worse by the story she is reading about the rat-catcher who steals children from their parents.

Alice Park as Eva and Maureen Davies as Lil in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesAlice Park as Eva and Maureen Davies as Lil in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Forty years later, in Manchester, Eva has changed her name to Evelyn (Linda Vincent) and is preparing for another separation as her own daughter, Faith (Kate Humbles), gets ready to leave the family home.

Sorting through the attic, Faith comes across something that threatens to reveal what her mother has suppressed for so long.

I don't want to give too much away here – Siobhan Hill Elam's finely directed piece will reveal its secrets far better than I can.

It sounds more complicated than it is.

Alice Park as Eva and Pete Dawson as Postman in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesAlice Park as Eva and Pete Dawson as Postman in Kindertransport at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

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It's actually an exploration of the complexity of the mother daughter relationship which features protection on one hand and abandonment on the other.

The action takes place in one space, the loft of Evelyn's home on a beautifully authentic set for which Rosemary Bianchi must be congratulated.

There was excellent use of lighting to indicate time and location switches, with subtle music to enhance the whole.

There were first-rate performances from a uniformly strong ensemble, including the supporting roles and the cameo of The Ratcatcher (Daniel Ephgrave).

I have to specifically mention Alice Park who, in her Barn debut, delivered an authentic and heartfelt performance.

A compelling, but not always easy watch, this first-class, emotionally intelligent production will strike a powerful cord with any parents who have watched their children grow up and leave.

It leaves us, too, with the inescapable truth that while we do what we believe is best for our children, they may not think so.

In this powerfully told story the sense of abandonment felt by many of the Kindertransport children echoes down through the generations.

Kindertransport can be seen at the Barn Theatre in Hanside Lane, WGC, until Saturday, May 4.

Evening performances are at 8pm, with a Saturday matinee on May 4 at 2.30pm.

Tickets cost £13 and are available online at www.barntheatre.co.uk or from the Barn Theatre box office on 01707 324300 (8am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and 7pm to 8.30pm performance nights).

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