Kindertransport by Diane Samuels

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Lil’s own life before Eva’s arrival is only glanced at, it is true, but there is one reference to it towards the end of the play when she says to Eva: ‘And I want to keep you. Like no one ever kept me.’ The audience is never told what the second part of her speech means, but the line certainly implies that Lil has also experienced some form of childhood insecurity. The neediness in such mother-daughter relationships works both ways of course – something Evelyn recognises in her relationship with her own daughter. At the end of the play, Faith asks, ‘What can I do for you? Please tell me what I can do to help?’ and Evelyn replies simply – and not without irony: ‘Stay my little girl forever.’ Such insecure needing can also be seen in Faith herself, whose – by comparison – trivial anxieties about whether she should leave home or not are finally overcome by the end of the play: the drama’s only positive outcome.

It is clear from these considerations that the absence of positive male role-models from the play serves, ironically, to emphasise how important they should have been in Eva/Evelyn’s life. For all the audience know, ‘Uncle Jack’ might have been a fine husband for Lil; his absence, however, inevitably gives an impression that he was only of marginal importance to both his wife and adopted daughter. Evelyn herself never told her own, unnamed, husband the truth about herself and – perhaps as a result – that relationship foundered sometime after Faith’s birth. The impression given throughout is that the mother-daughter bonds of the play have become too strong and exclusive, too overpowering and oppressive to be entirely healthy, and that is why, dramatically, Samuels brings each of these relationships, one by one, into a conflict where daughter turns on mother.

The two rows between Faith and Evelyn and Evelyn and Lil provide an obvious dramatic parallel, though they develop for quite different reasons. In both cases, however, the daughter turns on her mother and ‘blames her for everything’. Such a simplistic, black-and-white approach does not, of course, provide the audience with any convincing answers or insights: Evelyn is no more ‘a fucking, cow of a mother’ than Lil is a ‘Murderer’ or ‘Child-stealer.’

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Diane Samuels