Today’s post is a conversation on Kindertransport, by Diane Samuels, currently in production in the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, between Rose Whyman, Tom Mansfield (director) and Zoe Baum, Georgina Brehaut, Daniel Burke, Lorna Newman, Harriet Redfern and Hayley Robinson:
How aware you were of the Kindertransport and its scale before working on the play?
Tom: I first became aware of the Kindertransport when I saw the play for the first time several years ago. Prior to having seen the play, I’d had no idea about the existence of the Kindertransport, never mind its scale, so for me this was a great example of how drama can be used to make the audience aware of a historical event or issue.
Zoe: I am Jewish and for as long as I can remember I have known about the Holocaust but much less about Kindertransport.
Harriet: It was the play that introduced me to it.
Daniel: My understanding of the scale of the operation has grown as a result of working on the play.
What do you think the significance of the play is today?
Tom: In a sense the play is about every child forced to abandon their home by conflict, natural disaster and economic necessity. The discrimination that Eva is faced with is a real experience for many newly arrived children and adults in this country. As Helga, Eva’s mother, points out, the story is experienced ‘not only by our ancestors but as if it happened to us. Not legend but truth’. While we must not forget the evils that led to the Kindertransport, it is equally important to remember that comparable experiences are taking place as we speak.
Zoe: 75 years on we are reaching a time where the Kindertransport generation are sadly dying. This play is a way of representing the survivor stories so that younger generations can learn about the Holocaust.
Is it important for historical events to be used as subject matter for plays and what the problems/ possibilities are?
Hayley: Definitely – it is important to learn not only about the terrible events of the war but also the good actions by ordinary people that saved hundreds of lives.
Tom: Seeing the play may encourage audience members to do more detailed research into the history; it seems to me though that our primary responsibility in telling this story is to create something that communicates how the Kindertransport was experienced emotionally.
How do you think the experience would have been for children and young people?
Lorna: The experience of Kindertransport may have been frightening and overwhelming, though children do bounce back.
Georgina: Some of the children were excited, as they did not know at that point that they were not going to see their parents again.
How you are approaching the emotional demands of the roles?
Georgina: I have found it helpful to research current political issues in order to try to understand what is happening to the children –just seeing the terror occurring in places like Syria and seeing photos of pure devastation.