TORONTO — Kindertransport is a highly moving and heartfelt play about a German Jewish girl who escapes from Nazi Germany to Britain.
Jennifer Dzialoszynski as Eva in Kindertransport. [Racheal McCaig photo]
The “Kindertransport” is the name of the rescue mission of nearly 10,000 Jewish children that took place from 1938 to 1940.
Although a fictitious character, the girl’s story reflects the true accounts of the Jewish children who travelled without their parents from Germany and German-occupied territories to Britain.
Written by British playwright Diane Samuels, the play transports the audience back and forth in time, exposing Eva’s (Jennifer Dzialoszynski) past and present life.
The central setting of Kindertransport takes place in an attic, with boxes and trunks scattered on stage. It opens in Eva’s home in Hamburg in 1939, where Helga (Nancy Beatty), Eva’s mother, tries to prepare nine-year-old Eva, her only child, for her journey alone to Britain.
Eva is beside herself with worry, not wanting to go and anxious about when she will be able to see her parents again. Helga promises to join Eva in a few months’ time, once she and her husband are able to leave Germany.
The scene then switches forward in time to the early 1980s, in the attic of Evelyn’s (Corrine Koslo) London house. Evelyn, who is Eva as an adult, searches among her boxes for dishes and other household items to give to her college-age daughter, Faith (Jenny Young), because she is moving out on her own.
More of Eva’s young life unfolds, as Evelyn’s secrets are uncovered. The audience sees Eva transform before their eyes from an unsure, frightened nine-year-old girl who speaks mostly German and a poor English to an educated northern English teenage girl.
When Faith discovers old letters and photographs, a Haggadah and a storybook written in German, Faith confronts her grandmother, Lil, Evelyn’s foster mother, and learns that the little Jewish girl who stayed with her during the war, was in fact, her very own mother.
Even when confronted by Faith, Evelyn refuses to tell the truth about her Jewish past. By the end of the play, Evelyn’s true past is revealed, along with the complexities surrounding her decision to shed her Jewish past and identity.
Although the play’s subject matter deals with the horrors of the Holocaust, the themes are universal. Director Christopher Newton says: “It’s about many things – the difficulty of giving things up, rejection and fighting for recognition of identity.”
Waiting at a train station in London, a teary-eyed Eva asks Lil why her parents did not keep their promise to join her in Britain. Lil replies: “Wars break promises.”
Kindertransport bears witness to the emotional trauma of Eva’s young life and many other children like her.
Watching the play, audiences will gain a greater understanding of these children and the adults that they became.
Kindertransport runs until Nov. 23 at Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Al Green Theatre. For tickets, call 416-366-7723 or 1-800-708-6754 or visit online at www.hgjewishtheatre.com.