How Is the Theme of Identity Explored in Kindertransport by Diane Samuels?
750 WordsFeb 6th, 20123 Pages
Consider ways in which Diane Samuels explores ideas of identity in this play in Act 1 Scene 2, and elsewhere in the act.
Kindertransport is a short play, written by Diane Samuels. The play reflects various themes throughout, including the contrast between past and present, childhood memories, mother and daughter relationships, and most importantly the role of identity.
An immediate strong indication of Eva’s identity, when she first arrives in England at the beginning of Act One, Scene Two, is her German language. The language is noticed when an English officer speaks to Eva. Despite the officer speaking to her in English, she replies in German, she does this because she barely understands English. “I’m sorry, love. I can’t understand a…show more content…
She seems to feel comforted by the language, and depends on her German culture despite what has happened. It also illustrates how Eva chooses to rebel against being pushed into an English identity.
Eva is forced to leave Germany and her Jewish culture at the young age of 9. Despite this, her values are still very strong. For example, a very traditional Jewish view is that pigs are dirty animals and therefore should not be eaten. When Eva is offered ham, she refuses it. “Got ham in. I not to eat ham. It from pig.” Alike to a lot of children when doing something that’s not approved of by their parents, Eva believes that her mother will find out if she disobeys the Jewish rules and eats the ham. This shows how although Eva is no longer living with her Jewish family, she still continues to abide by the rules she has followed her entire life. This displays to the audience how Eva holds onto her past, and her Jewish/German identity
. Throughout Kindertransport, Eva often seems confused as to whether her identity remains English or German. On her first arrival, she is very much more German, however as the play progresses and Eva spends more time in England, her English identity widens. Eventually, she decides to change her identity once and for all. She changes her name, to a much more English name - Evelyn. She changes her birthday to the first day she arrives in England – this suggests that she believes she began her
Kindertransport is a play by Diane Samuels, which examines the life, during World War II and afterwards, of a Kindertransport child. Though fictitious, it is based upon many real kindertransport stories. The play is published by Nick Hern Books.
In November 1938, after nights of violence against Jews across Germany and Austria, the British government introduced a programme called the Kindertransport (children’s transport), which gave Jewish children—and only children—safe passage to the UK. Spared the horrors of the death camps, the Jewish “Kinder” were uprooted, separated from their parents and transported to a different culture where they faced, not the unmitigated horror of the death camps, but a very human mixture of kindness, indifference, occasional exploitation, and the selflessness of ordinary people faced with needy children. Eva Schlesinger, daughter of Helga and Werner, is sent away to live with a foster carer in Manchester, England, temporarily until her parents find work and move to England too. She lives with Lil, a woman who has one other child and is not in a relationship. Her other child is not seen or mentioned in the on screen play, although they are in the book version of the play. Lil allows Eva to smoke when she meets her which shows how Lil is not a proper guardian for Eva at first. Eva and Lil fall out as Eva skips her English lessons to go and ask round rich houses if they will give her parents jobs, Lil thinks this makes her seem desperate. She is unhappy and misses her mother. Eva and Lil both eventually become at peace with one another and get on well, Eva is shown as gradually losing her Jewish roots as she begins eating ham etc. One day Helga arrives when Eva is in her late teens and Eva tells Helga that Lil has adopted her and she has been naturalised as English, and her name is now Evelyn. Helga is offended and upset that Evelyn will not travel to New York with her to stay with family. Helga tells Evelyn her father is dead. They have an argument and Helga leaves, which is then followed by an imaginary vicious, angry argument between Helga and Evelyn in which Evelyn gets out all of her hatred for Helga, and she proclaims that Helga IS the Ratcatcher, a character constantly present in the play. At the same time in the present, Evelyn's daughter Faith is uncovering her Mum's secret past and they have an argument, which eventually comes to rest. All of this takes place in the attic of Lil's house, which supposedly represents Evelyn's psyche.
Kindertransport was first performed in the UK by the Soho Theatre Company at the Cockpit Theatre in London on 13 April 1993 and the US at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York on 26 April 1994. Subsequently the play has been produced in Sweden, Japan, Germany, Austria, Canada and South Africa. It was adapted by the author for a BBC Radio 4 production in 1995. It has also been performed in Manchester in 2014, where the play is set, at the Opera House.