But Kindertransport is about much more than this. As the (excellent) programme says, ‘Ask a child if they would prefer to be sent away . . . and he or she will . . . say that they’d rather stay and die with their parents. Ask a parent what they would do . . . . and most would say that they’d send away their child to be safe.’ War creates a no win situation. Eva / Evelyn’s way of coping is to deliberately forget her German past and become totally English; she does this by suppressing all emotions and immersing herself in all things English, but her obsession with cleaning and order and her brisk, cold manner to her daughter are indications of a damaged personality. When her daughter finds a box of items from Evelyn’s past and starts asking questions, the emotions come pouring out.
Another theme in this multi-layered play is the need for mothers to let their children go – ‘the bittersweet task is to prepare their child to manage entirely without them’. This is something that Evelyn, for obvious reasons, struggles to do.
And through it all we have the Ratcatcher, his mouth open in a Munch-like scream, the representation of everyone’s nightmare.
Shared Experience plays usually showcase powerful, emotional women in extraordinary situations and this play is no exception. The story of the 5 women is interwoven in a moving story of enduring pain beyond reasonable endurance and how they deal with it. The 5 actors portray these women dramatically, sometimes rather melodramatically, but always effectively and Alexi Campbell ably supports them in all the male roles. The set, a jumble of cases and furniture resembling your Granny’s attic, works well, with actors going in and out of wardrobes C S Lewis-style. It is not the best production I have seen Shared Experience perform but it is a powerful one which deserves to be seen.
And buy the programme too.