Diane Samuels' Kindertransport is set both in the past and the present - they are inextricably intertwined. Eva came to England from Germany in 1939 as part of the Kindertransport; this is the story of her survival and her future. In the Present
The play tells the story of Evelyn and her daughter, Faith. Faith is leaving home for university, and it becomes clear that both she and her mother are finding the impending separation difficult. We first see them in the attic, where Evelyn is looking for household items, teacups, glasses etc., to give to Faith. It is here that Faith discovers a little, old suitcase of childhood belongings. As the play develops, we discover that the suitcase belonged to Eva, the Jewish German child who sought safety in Britain in 1939. We realize that Evelyn is in fact Eva. As Faith starts going through the items which Evelyn has kept secret for so long, the hurt, pain and secrecy of her mother’s past is revealed. In the Past
In the past, we see nine year old Eva getting ready to travel to England; her parents plan to follow shortly afterwards and they will be reunited. In England, Eva is fostered by a working-class northern lady called Lil. At first, Eva tries to find work for her parents in England and looks forward to being reunited with them. However, as time passes, she forgets her Jewish religion and becomes ‘British’. Characters
Eva – 9 year old Jewish child from Germany. On the journey to England, she is frightened by the Border Guard and never loses her fear of men in uniform. She is resourceful and determined. For example, she persuades her mum to read Der Rattfanger book, even though her mother doesn’t want to. She also goes knocking on doors asking whether there is any work for her parents. She is cheeky. For example, she asks to try Lil’s cigarette. She is willful and patient; she runs away from Lil to wait at the train station, hoping that her parents will arrive. Possibly to disguise her pain and rejection, she tries to forget about her parents. We see this in the Cinema, when she refuses to let newsreel of the concentration camps spoil her day out. She is secretive; she never tells Lil that Helga came back for her. Evelyn – She still bears the scars of a traumatic childhood. We see this in her relationships with both her adoptive mother, Lil, and her daughter, Faith. Evelyn has tried so hard to bury the past that she cannot understand why Faith would want to know about it. We are told that Evelyn cleans compulsively (perhaps an indication that she is always trying to clean away her past or that she needs to be able to control everything around her). Faith also reveals that her mother has panic attacks every time she encounters a man in uniform. Faith – Faith seems to be confused about her life; she is planning to leave home to go to university, but then begins to changer her mind. We find out that her parents are divorced and that Evelyn is planning to sell the family home; things which could also make Faith feel emotional and confused. She is not afraid to argue with her mother, and can be very disrespectful at times; possibly showing her immaturity in dealing with the situation. When she discovers Evelyn’s past, she is more caught up in how a secret has been kept from her rather than what terrible things her mother has suffered. In her angry outbursts, we can see the similarities between Faith and her mother; particularly in Eva’s final meeting with Helga at the port. Lil – Lil is a kind, working class woman from Manchester. The fact that she smokes, something Helga would never do, reveals to Eva that she is working class. Lil is a patient surrogate mother; she only becomes angry with Eva when the girl puts herself at risk, for example, when Eva roams the streets looking for work for her parents. She is kind and wants to protect Eva from the horrors of war and what may have happened to her parents. We see this when Lil attempts to leave the Cinema when the...
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