THEATRE REVIEW - Kindertransport

Emma Deegan (Helga) and Gabrielle Dempsey (Eva) in Kindertransport
Emma Deegan (Helga) and Gabrielle Dempsey (Eva) in Kindertransport
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WITH the anniversary approaching, the whole nation is thinking of the hell-on-earth that was World War I. Come the day, come the hour and come the strike of Big Ben, millions will remember in silence.

Another aspect of war makes poignant and memorable drama just now. It is the play Kindertransport, which tells of the highly moving and thought-provoking plight of just one of the 10,000 Jewish children who left Germany for England before the start of the second world war.

So many musicals delight audiences at Manchester’s two great theatres. All glitz and glamour and pink and purple light. Inevitably audiences leave with a spring in their step.

But not from Kindertransport. We left deep in thought having experienced a truly amazing story we’re unlikely to forget.

At times, the performance had the power to sting, make us wince.

The story unfolds on a sparse stage on the very edge of war. A Jewish German mother is selflessly preparing for her seven-year-old daughter Eva to travel to England to escape persecution.

Cleverly the action switches between the two countries, and a sense of fear and doom go hand in hand as the child adjusts to a new and very different life.

Kindertransport is a drama peppered with many emotions, and Eva takes British citizenship and the story advances six years to show reaction at discovering her past which has been kept secret in a box in the attic.

Andrew Hall’s is able to take great satisfaction for bring this play to new life, and cast of five deserve the highest praise. As child escaping the Germans, Alicia Ambrose-Bayly captured the emotional torment and joy and as her English counterpart, Janet Dibley was a triumph.

As the German mother Helga, Emma Deegan’s acting was the stuff of standing ovations, and Rosie Holden, Maggie Steed and Paul Lancaster completed the stellar cast.

This was drama at its professional peak and its ability to bring to life a little known aspect of the last war was never in doubt.

Manchester Opera House - March 25 to 29.