How do you cope with this? How can you cope in the future - if you have one? Where is safety, and what is it?
Difficult questions for anyone to answer. In Diane Samuels' play time shifts both questions and answers through the stories of Eva, her German Jewish birth mother Helga, her English foster mother Lil and her own daughter Faith.
There's also a symbolic presence, the ratcatcher. As so often happens with German fables when anglicised, Der Rattenfänger is a far more sinister figure than that suggested by Browning's Pied Piper.
It's beautifully staged by Polly Teale within Jonathan Fensom's attic setting, all mismatched wardrobes and dilapidated suitcases. This is history's lumber room as well as Evelyn's - that being the name she has chosen (with her new nationality) in preference to Eva.
Matti Houghton gives us both the vulnerable child and the self-sufficient teenager which are equally Eva. As Evelyn, Marion Bailey is less sympathetic, though very much the obvious mother of Lily Bevan's Faith. There a finely characterised study of Lil from Eileen O'Brien, lynchpin for her "grand-daughter" just as surely as she has been for her adopted daughter.
Blood may be thicker than water, but perhaps nurture rather than nature is the true coagulant. Pandora Colin's Helga shows us that the willpower which can ensure survival - even in Auschwitz - can be a force to dehumanise. We feel that Evelyn makes one right decision. Der Rattenfänger comes in many guises.
Which, of course, is why Alexi Kaye Campbell personifies not only that creature of the abyss but also officialdom at its most bureaucratic - a Nazi border guard, a harassed organiser for refugees, an over-inquisitive postman and a highly suspicious station guard.
This is a play for those who can remember and those for whom it is simply history. Shared Experience puts a living past upon which no dust settles in front of us and leaves us to make our own judgements. This is theatre at its most truthful.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich)