Critics' Circle Review Kindertransport

Thrilling, chilling and all round instilling

Wow. What a play. To be captured within the first five minutes of the play is highly unusual. I was sat on the edge of my seat throughout the whole production. The two time periods it was switched between were shown so clearly and it was mesmerizing how smooth the transitions were. The play itself had so much context related to the world nowadays, seeing as the presidential leaders in charge nowadays are exceptionally similar.

The actress playing Eva/Evelyn was incredible. The variety of ages she managed to get across in such a short period of time was transfixing. I couldn’t take my eyes of her. Even the way she sat made it obvious on what age she was playing. Her German accent was tremendous and it faded so smoothly I barely even noticed.

The rat catcher was so eerie and scary. Every time he came on I shivered. The German songs sung by children playing in the background were enough to give anyone nightmares. The shadowing effect done on the rat catcher was truly spine chilling. You couldn’t see his face at all and it was absolutely petrifying.
The part set in the 1980s needed a little work I feel. The girl who played faith needed to have a lot more awareness of the audience as she kept turning her back to us whilst saying a line. Obviously we could still hear it but when it’s meant to be a heartfelt line and we can’t see her facial expressions it can sometimes come across very sarcastic or monotone. She also needed to use more emotion in her voice as when she was shouting at her mum and calling her a terrible mother she sounded like it wasn’t truthful.

The lady playing Evelyn was an absolute delight. The raw emotion displayed on her face when faith started asking her questions was one of the best things I’ve ever watched an actress do. The pure mixture of rage and sadness mixed in with fear and memories all displayed across her face in a matter of seconds.
I would 110% recommend you to go and watch this play. Beware though, don’t forget your tissues.

By Hanna Fletcher

Kindertransport- more scary than sad

Fiona Buffini has, once again, directed a play for the Nottingham Playhouse that she should be incredibly proud of. This is a stunning production which delivers the fear and sadness of the event through simply telling the story.

As I say in the title, this play was scarier than anything else and certainly left me no room to cry. That’s not to say that there weren’t any profound moments, where you’re suddenly hit with the realisation of the events unfolding. We start with a young Eva (Jenny Walser) being taught how to fix her coat by her mother, Helga (Rebecca D’Souza), as she is trying to prepare her for fleeing Germany on the Kindertransport. The literally translates to ‘children’s transport’ and happened shortly before the Second World War, as an effort to save Jewish children from the Holocaust. Unfortunately, most of us are aware of this terribly event in history and that is why I think it is important to tell these stories, so that we can avoid making these terrible mistakes again.

The story jumps between young Eva’s story and her experiences of being raised by her English foster mother, Lil (Denise Black), to a modern day Eva, now called Evelyn (Kate Hamer) and her daughter Faith (Elena Breschi). However, throughout both time frames, we hear tales of the Ratcatcher (Patrick Osborne), a terrifying German folk story who snatches away ungrateful children. The Ratcatcher was the most terrifying part of the play, as you never see him properly but his presence cannot be denied.

Something else that made the play so effective was the use of German when Eva firsts comes to England. This really highlighted the confusion felt by both parties, especially considering that the children probably didn’t fully understand what was happening and why their parents sent them away. Even without us knowing what is being said, the fear in her voice made her emotions very clear.

The set remained the same throughout, cluttered with boxes built into a large inaccessible hill. I think that this was done to show how, even as she matures into a young woman, she still remains the same scared child who doesn’t quite know how to deal with everything going on around her.

I fully recommend going to see this play, it is beautifully acted and will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

By Rachael Wells

Ich verstehe nicht – monolog response

Ich verstehe nicht. Ich verstehe nicht. The only thing that runs through my mind when they talk to me. I want to understand but I can’t the gibberish just doesn’t roll of my tongue. I am the foreign girl who can’t speak their language and I must sort it out. Ich verstehe nicht. Why can’t I just be back in Germany with Mutti and Vati? I miss them but they will come soon. They promised but when is that? Ich verstehe nicht. If only they could understand me…why can’t they learn German? I do want to learn. Yes, I do but the isolation makes it incredibly hard. They have friends they could learn it with I just have Mutti and Vati and they haven’t arrived yet. Ich verstehe nicht. Around me people smile and laugh and talk but I can’t. They all use hand gestures so I understand what is going on but I don’t and will never understand. Ich verstehe nicht. I want to go home back to my family with the people I love and know eat fresh bread and drink tea that doesn’t taste like dish water. I want laughter and smiles. However I will never get that again for my country is lost into the abyss and I hate it! Just take me home please. Ich verstehe nicht.

By Hannah Spencer

Kindertransport is a moving and unpredictable play of incredible symbolism and family truths. It centres on a young Jewish girl who is sent from Germany to England in hope of saving her from the Nazis. Years later, she prepares for her daughter to leave home and unearths some unpleasant facts of her childhood.
Eva is the young, Jewish main character. We see her grow from an innocent nine year old to a young woman. Later, we see her as Evelyn, the mother of Faith. We can easily empathise with her and we sympathise with her when she is forced to choose between the two lives she has led in Germany and England.
Eva’s mother Helga is probably the most interesting character in it. She clearly loves her daughter and is forced with two impossible decisions that no one should have to make. The dynamic between her and Eva is both tragic and touching to watch.

Mrs Miller poses as the stark contrast to Helga. She provides the humour of the play. Her patience with Eva and her clear love for her made her my favourite character of the play. Her ruggedness, in comparison to Helga, represented the two worlds that Eva transitions between. I found it interesting how Mrs Miller never asks Eva to change but Eva does it out of love for her new mother.

Faith is the only character of the play that I had an issue with. On one hand, she is a very dynamic and relatable teenager on the cusp of becoming an adult. Her relationship with Evelyn is one of love and struggle, as is most relationships between mother and daughter. Yet, her insensitivity to Evelyn’s trauma bothered me. She seems to struggle to empathise with her mother or even pity her.

The play is an incredibly emotional journey, whereby you lose yourself in the plot and experience the tragedy as if it was your own. The intimacy of the play as well as the symbolism of the Ratcatcher to denote Eva’s fear of being sent away, both from Germany and England, create an image of childhood despair and struggle.

By Tabitha Gresty

Overall I loved Kindertransport. It was a great play exploring many past and current themes and issues. Set in an attic, the set was very effective and allowed the characters to move swiftly between the 1930s and the 1980s.

It started just before Eva was transported to England, on her final night before she leaves. The audience really feel the pain of the mother (Helga) as she tries to prepare Eva for the world in such a short amount of time. As Eva gets on the train and begins her life in England she seems scared and confused by why all this is happening to her and why her parents can’t come with her. She is greeted by the lovely Lil as she arrives in England.

You can really see throughout the whole play how Eva is forced to adapt to how society wants her to fit in. Her English gradually improves as she starts to forget what her past was. She also grows a lot in her emotions, steadily becoming more mature. A particularly moving scene was when Evelyn, at the age of sixteen, is able to move to America after the war but Evelyn is so used to the British culture and language that she does not want to move.

Meanwhile in the 1980s Faith, Evelyn’s daughter, is searching through the attic looking for things she might need when she moves out and she comes across a box of papers that talk about a young girl called Eva. She discovers that her mother changed her identity to fit in to society. Faith is deeply upset that she wasn’t told any of this before and it takes sometime time for them to resolve their argument.

The whole play was clearly deeply considered throughout and I felt all the actors had deep emotional connections with their characters. The play was also educational as you learn a lot about not just what went on but the emotions they felt. In my opinion I think that the play was very well done.

By Naomi Thomas

Recently, I got to watch ‘Kindertransport’ and I must say, what an insightful experience it was! ‘Kindertransport’ is an enlightening and moving piece from Nottingham playhouse that I think found a place in everyone’s heart. A beautiful and marvellous performance full of emotion and strong characters, formed so tremendously by such a skilled variety of actors.

Diane Samuels’ ‘Kindertransport’ follows the story of a young Jewish Girl who flees from Germany on a train to England, and her journey of adapting to her new life, leaving her past behind. Alongside, we fast-forward to the Jewish girl’s daughter later in life in 1980 England, who, whilst searching the attic, uncovers memories and secrets her mother tried so hard to leave behind.

Directed by Fiona Buffini, ‘Kindertransport’ on its 80th year anniversary not only gives us insight into past incidents, but also, in a time when refugees are a source of heated political debate, a play like ‘Kindertransport’ has never been more relevant.

The set of the play (designed by Madeleine Girling) is in a way simplistic and yet perfect to enable for the audience to create a world of their own and gives space for the audience’s imagination to thrive and disappear into the heart of this incredible piece. The authenticity in the set and costumes combine perfectly to create a believable and immersive piece. The clever use of space and props allows multiple scenes to play out on the stage without a need for set changes, allowing the performance to flow consistently and draw the audience into the heat of the performance. Whether by the use of a trapdoor giving a genuine attic feel to the scene, or simplistic props that allow for multi-role, multiple environments are created with ease.

Another remarkable feature of the performance was the use of a split focus, cleverly used to allow the two different eras to play out on the stage, with perfect transitions between the two. The way Lil (Eva’s adoptive mother) moves between the two sets is a brilliant technique that ties the two sets together seamlessly, almost creating a symbolism for the audience of the relationship between the characters.

The lighting designer- Alexandra Stafford’s precise and thoughtful lighting provides atmosphere and suspense to the play, guiding the audience carefully into the desired mood. This, merged together with the sound/music (Jon Nicholls) creates a very successful duo. This is shown during scenes with the Ratcatcher (Patrick Osborne), where the powerful music and use of shadows and lighting, create tension and a certain nervousness that seems to ripple across the audience.

The skill and energy the actors all put into their roles was phenomenal! Someone that especially stood out to me was Denise Black (Lil) who almost effortlessly carried the audience from one moment in time to another and whose role was both believable, and near impossible not to feel warmly towards. Also, Jenny Walser whose transition of a child to a young woman appeared faultless, and ability to act such an age range made the character easy to see as both a child and a woman.

An amazing and thoughtful production well worth seeing and which I struggle to see fault in.

By Sasha Hylton

A diary entry response to Kindertransport

Das ist nicht gut…

Each person in the crowd moves as if unseeing hands drag them this way and that, pulling their eyes to one thing and then another. Raucous pandemonium is deafening my ears as I clamber onto the station platform.


Mutti told me that England is the place of new beginnings. We will be safe here but I find it hard to believe so. An inconspicuous shadow of doubt shrouds my mind: too many children crying, too much despair – so is Mutti getting this wrong?

Surely, she wouldn’t lie to me. She loves me. Ich liebe sie. I must trust her.

Am I lost? I’m not exactly sure where I’m going, leading me to feel a thick lump rise from my chest to my throat. Quickly, after tears well in my eyes, threatening to cascade onto my cheek.

The floor was smooth, it felt comforting against my leather shoes knowing I was safe on the solid ground again. I slowly raise my gaze and become transfixed, overwhelmed by the bewildered multitudes of people. I had never been claustrophobic before, but in that almighty swell of humanity I felt the panic rise in my chest. When they moved spontaneously I had to also follow and if my feet failed to keep up I risked being trampled underfoot – which was I was not prepared to let happen.

Mutti must come soon… – And there she was, stood before me. She, her wispy hair in small clumps on her head, aged beyond her years. Her lips chapped and thin, like a thin pencil line across her face. Her eyes were still the type of brown that was like a sweet chocolate. The type of chocolate that melts at the slightest bit from the heat from love, or happiness. But that chocolate can also grow hard from the cold harsh reality that is apparent in this world. Trauma. Pain. Loss.

It’s in there.

She wails to me in a foreign blabber I know longer familiarise with. Empty words with no meaning however raw with emotion. And the raw emotion is what breaks me. Calls to me.

Once, years ago I felt like a burden in England.

And now I feel like a burden to my mother. She wants me, she aches for me but I can no longer feel the same feeling I felt for her.

She turns. She leaves.

Auf Weidersehen, Mutti.

I don’t need you anymore.

By Ella O’Brien

Was it survival or suffering?

In its 80th anniversary year, Fiona Buffini has chosen this year to direct Diane Samuels’ play Kindertransport. Titled in the German tongue, it translates as ‘children’s transport’, making explicit reference to the organised rescue effort that saved the lives of thousands of children from Nazi persecution during the nine months prior to the Second World War. With the past and present day overlapping each other, we witness throughout the play young Eva struggle to grapple with her new future whilst her adult self, Evelyn, is made at the same time to confront her past.

The play makes clear that war not only separates families but causes an uncomfortable questioning of identity. Upon first arriving in England it is clear that she doesn’t belong there; her rich German accent is starkly juxtaposed with that of Lil’s Mancunian dialect. Their initial introductions, with Eva speaking German and her guardian attempting to communicate via English poignantly foregrounds the fact that she is an outsider, an outsider who is quite possibly lost to her heritage and, by association, her identity, forever. This becomes clear by the end of the play when Eva, who has not only physically matured, but has successfully adopted a stereotypical British accent and poised mannerisms, has eradicated the signifiers of accent and the continuous, jittery movements that belonged to the 9 year old girl.

Indeed, this realisation opens the path to more complex matters. The adoption of the British accent is clearly a form of survival and yet the psychological trauma in the elder Evelyn speaks volumes to the guilt she is feeling. The introduction of the terrifying and haunting Ratcather as the physical manifestation of Eva’s worst nightmare is magnified when he directly tells the audience that he takes away children’s happiness and leads them into the abyss. It is significant then that he appears every time Eva is on the brink of being abandoned, especially by a mother-figure, and the directorial decision to stage him on a higher level visually highlights his control over her.

By the end of the play, the Ratcatcher metamorphoses into something more sinister. We see Evelyn protect the memory of her younger self by embracing the actress playing Eva in a motherly way and accusing her German mother of being the real Ratcatcher. This suggests that the memory of her mother overrides feelings of gratitude for surviving the war and magnifies Evelyn’s guilt at changing her name and abandoning her German identity, implying that her survival has almost become an oppressive force that has sparked her psychological suffering.

With uncanny comparison to the political chaos ensuing under President Trump’s dictatorship, and the racist outbursts across the United Kingdom after Brexit, the play speaks loudly to us all. It leaves us feeling raw, emotional and hungry to prevent such traumatising events from ever happening again because as we can see with the adult Evelyn that subjecting young children to this trauma has eternal consequences.

By Jade Braham

By Lucy Wakefield