I saw this play by Diane Samuels at the Hampstead Theatre in 2007. I had already become interested in the subject when I saw it, so thought I knew quite a bit of the background: how Britain took in ten thousand children, mostly Jewish, from Nazi dominated Europe before the start of the second world war; how Jewish organisations manoeuvred to rescue children; how so many families sent their children to Britain to safety but stayed behind themselves. I knew lots of facts. Then, I saw the play by Diane Samuels.
The best theatre lives with you long after the play has ended. Here, the story of the Kindertransport came alive for me and made me realise what the cost was for parents and how brave the children had to be. The story starts in modern times with a daughter, leaving home; a poignant moment for both mother and daughter and a trigger of memories of another leaving home. The mother, too, had left home and it is the circumstances of her leaving and arriving that open up questions of belonging and identity. The mother had been a girl rescued on the Kindertransport and now, many years later, was a different person entirely.
It isn’t the facts that matter here but the emotions. Diane Samuels explores the cost to mothers and daughters of that rescue and that new life in another country. Who did these children become once their new country had shaped them? How could they be anything other than strangers to the ones they left behind?
I read this play back in 2005 and was then fortunate to see it performed at the Hampstead Theatre in 2007. As the production was by the Shared Experience Theatre Company, it was always bound to be excellent.
‘Kindertransport’ by Diane Samuels is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?