Kindertransport, theatre review: 'Deeply moving and beautifully acted'

Richmond Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

Andrew Hall directs this deeply moving and beautifully acted revival of Diane Samuels' now-classic 1993 play about the psychological scars left on some of the 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children who were evacuated to England from Europe between December 1938 and the declaration of war against Germany.

In Hamburg 1939, we see a mother selflessly preparing her impulsive nine year old daughter Eva (brilliant played up to the age of seventeen by newcomer Gabrielle Dempsey) for her escape.  In the 1980s in England, another mother, the well-groomed, uptight, hygiene-fanatic Evelyn (Janet Dibley) is reluctantly helping a daughter to flee the nest.  When the latter discovers papers revealing that Eva is Evelyn's secret past, systematically suppressed, she is appalled and angry.

The richly eloquent theatrical conceit is that present and past occupy the stage simultaneously, pointing up the distorted echoes in this story of emotional legacies and inter-generational conflict.  Paula Wilcox gives a lovely warm, humorous performance as Eva's kind-hearted Mancunian adoptive mother, while Emma Deegan is truly harrowing as Helga, the German mother who survives Auschwitz and, for reasons which the play makes painfully plausible, comes to be equated with the child-stealing Ratcatcher from fairytale in Eva's haunted mind.  Essential viewing.

To Feb 8; 0844 871 7651; then touring to Southend, Eastbourne, Guildford, Malvern, Mold and Manchester