Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Secrets in the attic


Highbury Theatre Centre


IT seems to me something of an anomaly how this inspirational work by Diane Samuels has not had more accolades heaped upon it than the few it has received.

As a piece of writing it is a detailed and complex study of inter-generational relationships and the how the reality of a parent's decisions, made in their children's interest, can adversely affect their future.

Although the story focuses on three generations of a family from just before the start of the Second World War to the 1980s, its themes are applicable to anyone where an individual has had to secretly rebuild their past in order to live a normal life.

Kindertransport is based on the fact that tens of thousands of mainly German and Austrian children from Jewish families were sent away by their parents in the lead-up to the outbreak of war in order to keep them safe from the threat of Nazism.

 One such child is nine-year old Eva, forced to leave her family in Hamburg and sent to Manchester. Unable to speak any English and frightened into the journey with the horrific story of a Pied Piper character, `The Rat Catcher ‘ she arrives alone into the care of Lil .

At the same time we move forward to 1980s and to another girl, Faith, who is also about to leave the family home. One day as she searches the attic she finds a suitcase containing evidence of her mother's dark and secret past. The story and action moves flawlessly back and forth over the years to the younger and adult Eva in `flashback' style and the script intertwines the issues of each generation beautifully.

Jewish children arriving in London in February 1939. Some 10,000  arrived between November 1938 and  the outbreak of war in September 1939. Most were the only members of their family to survive the war

Helen Denning was excellent as the younger Eva, also handling a fair amount of spoken German with ease. Barbara Garrett played her German mother, austere and regimental, forcing Eva to become independent and detached knowing the impending doom of the approaching war.

Dee White is the older Eva, now called Evelyn, who now as an adult is scarred and remains confused by her troubled childhood. The link between the past and modern day comes in the form of Lil, the surrogate mother played convincingly by Sandra Hayes, as we see her with both the younger and older Eva. Faith, Evelyn's (Eva's) daughter was played by Hannah Parry while Robert Hicks performed several supporting roles including the menacing Rat Catcher.

There are no real lead performances in this play as the drama is so intertwined that everyone is equally important to the story and everyone here played their part with a committed compassion. There were a couple of hiccups on this opening night but is clear everyone has worked incredibly hard to bring this emotional play to life.

Kindertransport is something of ballet in negotiating the flashback sequences between the eras and Director Alison Cahill kept everything beautifully in check in amongst the very effective stage set.  

As we head toward remembrance Sunday and pay tribute to those who have given their lives in military conflicts, Kindertransport is an alternative reminder that even with all of emotional issues it may bring, that for some, it is a time that would rather be forgotten. To 16-11-13.

Jeff Grant 

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