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Moving historical play Kindertransport comes to the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:20 26 February 2018

L- R: Catherine Janke, Leila Schaus, Suzan Sylvester and Hannah Bristow. Photo: Mark Sepple.

L- R: Catherine Janke, Leila Schaus, Suzan Sylvester and Hannah Bristow. Photo: Mark Sepple.

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A moving play about a woman’s struggle to come to terms with her past is coming to Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre next month.

L-R: Suzan Sylvester, Jenny Lee and Hannah Bristow, who will be performing in Kindertransport at the Queens Theatre. Photo: Mark Sepple. L-R: Suzan Sylvester, Jenny Lee and Hannah Bristow, who will be performing in Kindertransport at the Queens Theatre. Photo: Mark Sepple.

Suzan Sylvester stars as Evelyn in Diane Samuels’ Kindertransport which opens in the Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, from March 8 - 24.

She told the Recorder: “It starts off in 1939 and as the play unfolds you see the story of a little girl and how she’s made into a woman.

“There are six actors and three generations of women.

“It jumps from 1939 to about 1983, where we find a grown-up Evelyn and she’s got her daughter, and the play unravels from there.”

Kindertransport tells the story of nine-year-old Eva, a German Jewish girl.

She is sent to start a new life in Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War on the Kindertransport.

Leila Shaus as Eva who will be performing in Kindertransport at the Queens Theatre. Photo: Mark Sepple. Leila Shaus as Eva who will be performing in Kindertransport at the Queens Theatre. Photo: Mark Sepple.

More than 40 years later, she has changed her name to Evelyn and is forced to confront the truth when her daughter discovers old letters in the attic.

Evelyn’s past continues to affect her future, as she has regular panic attacks and gets claustrophobic.

Speaking about her character, Suzan said: “She’s quite up-tight, middle class, and well educated, but she has been brought up by a working class woman in Manchester.

“She makes a new life for herself in England and is probably quite OCD.”

However, in some ways Suzan can identify with Evelyn.

“I know what’s like to be the new girl in school and to come from a different background,” the actress said.

“But it’s always helped me to think about mothers in general.

“I remember playing it before and thinking, ‘I’m right, I’m right’ as a character and now I look at it as [Faith’s] just a silly girl and doesn’t really know anything.”

Suzan previously performed as Faith, Evelyn’s daughter in the premiere production of Kindertransport in 1993 at the Cockpit Theatre.

This time, she has enjoyed exploring the relationship between mothers and daughters in her performance.

“It’s sort of an eye-opener because I can see what it was like for the actor who did [my role] in Soho,” said Suzan.

Kindertransport is very much about mothers and daughters, and it’s worth exploring.

“[The production] is much bigger, we’re in quite big theatres and it’s completely different in a lot of ways.”

The play marks the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport which saw thousands of Jewish children ferried from Austria and Germany to safety.

Suzan described the play’s theme as, “pretty harrowing” but one that looks at the relationships between the characters as much as it is about the events of the Second World War.

She added: “It’s more the psychological impact that needs exploring, and it’s more what the play is about than actual specific history.

“It’s set at that time for a certain reason.

“The argument between the generations is pretty timeless and universal.”

Suzan is best known for appearing in the BBC TV drama Cherished and crime thriller Murder on the Home Front.

Other TV credits include Eastenders, Kingdom and London’s Burning.

Speaking about whether she prefers live theatre or TV, Suzan said: “The two are completely different, because when you do a play, you have rehearsals, and you’ve built up your character.

“When you’re performing you’re in complete control for those one or two hours.

“With TV it can be quite hard concentrating on what you’re doing.”

Kindertransport is a co-produced with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and will be playing in Luxembourg from March 27 - 31 before embarking on a UK tour to the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, Richmond Theatre and Manchester Opera House.

“We have a German speaking team and the director is German speaking,” said Suzan.

“It’s been really fascinating to be in Luxembourg, because some of the characters are German.”

Opening night for Kindertransport is on Saturday, March 10 at 8pm, contact the Queen’s Theatre on 01708 443333 for tickets.

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