Review: Kindertransport, Brighton Theatre Royal, until Saturday November 23

Kindertransport. Photo by Robert Day
Kindertransport. Photo by Robert Day

This is the most moving play I think I have ever seen - I cried three times, which is a theatre record for me.

Kindertransport began to play havoc with my emotions in the second act, when we started to explore the relationship between a Jewish German girl who has been separated from her birth mother by the war.

The play deals with the plight of Jewish children who were sent away by their parents from Nazi Germany to live abroad while the persecution of Jews in Germany escalated.

By Diane Samuels, the play follows Eva, who is sent away to live in Manchester by her Mum Helga.

We see how she copes with living in a new country, how she adapts and assimilates into British culture, but ultimately how this devastating period of her life is still a part of her, impacting on her ensuing relationships. It deals with abandonment issues and grief sensitively and powerfully.

The performances from the cast were mesmerising and emotionally charged.

Special mention must go to Gabrielle Dempsey (Eva) who plays a nine-year-old German girl, with a very good German accent and then a 17-year-old teenager, who has developed a Manchester accent, managing to pull both roles off convincingly.

And there’s a dark thread running through the play dealing with the Rat Catcher, an allegorical reference to Eva’s fear of being taken away again and a reference to the German fairy tale, the Piper of Hamelin, in which 130 children disappeared from Hameln in 1284.

There’s a cleverly designed set, where a bed doubles as a train carriage and underneath the floorboards are piles of shoes, in a nod to the heaps of footwear uncovered at Nazi death camps such as Auschwitz.

Kindertransport really happened - around 10,000 Jewish or non Aryan Christian children were sent abroad for their own safety, many of whom would never see their parents again.

Groups such as the Inter-Aid Committee and its allies in the churches made the case for rescuing Jewish or non Aryan Christian children even if their parents could not be saved.

The UK was alone in taking this proposal up - in fact most European countries were reluctant to take Jewish German refugees in.

If the ancient Greeks believed in the process of catharsis, by which watching a sad play helped you purge your own emotions, thus making you a better person, I can only agree.

I found the abandonment issues played out between mother and daughter heart breaking to watch. That’s when the crying started.

It made me think how lucky I am that my Mum is just a phone call away, how brilliant my Mum is, that I should call her and tell her how amazing she is.