Kindertransport – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

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There were three reasons for us to have high expectations of this production of ‘Kindertransport’ by Diane Samuels. Starring Paula Wilcox and Janet Dibley and produced by ‘Hall and Childs’ who are building a fine reputation for themselves with a successful tour of Ayckbourn’s ‘Haunting Julia’ under their belt, we anticipated that this would not disappoint.

Rendering the entire audience silent as together, we followed the trials and tribulations of mothers and daughters in opposing time periods, this production was nothing short of breath-taking. The solitary set was designed to follow the characters’ journeys with minimal fuss and the multiple purpose of some of the props was an innovative idea. The sound effects were a stunning addition to the piece and added an atmospheric dimension.

The story essentially revolves around the mother/daughter relationship as demonstrated by a Jewish mother and daughter in Germany in the 1930s where children are about to be evacuated to England. Simultaneously, in the 1980s a daughter is leaving home to live with her friends – but is it too soon? Her mother doesn’t seem to think so but implores her to make a decision and stick to it! The two stories are linked, in the most complex and heart-wrenching way. Paula Wilcox is outstanding as Lil, moving seemlessly between time periods as the Grandmother in the 1980s and ‘mother’ in the 1930s, she also provides some light comedy moments. Janet Dibley plays Evelyn, who tries to deal with her past by ignoring it, yet it becomes clear that the past has made her the person she is today and there are issues that need to be faced. Dibley’s performance is stunning, ‘Evelyn’ claims that as she gets older she loses more of herself, and this statement is reflected in every emotion she portrays.

There are superb contributions from Emma Deegan as Jewish Mother, Helga, also Paul Lancaster who primarily takes the role of the Ratcatcher, but also played various other male roles. Making her theatre debut is Rosie Holden as Faith (Evelyn’s daughter) and we feel sure this won’t be the last time we’ll see her treading the boards. However, arguably the most pivotal role is that of Eva, and Gabrielle Dempsey has been perfectly cast. Dempsey’s German accent never waivered (until it was necessary) and she convincingly portrayed every age of the character.

Andrew Hall has directed an amazingly talented cast in a spectacularly touching play which we feel is a must-see for audiences of most age ranges. The short run in Coventry has come to an end, however please access http://www.kindertransport.co.uk for all dates and venues.

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