Pulling out of Birmingham at 8.30 on a rainy overcast Wednesday morning were two cars bound for rural Nottinghamshire. Two hours later after navigating rush hour traffic and miles of road works we arrived via a maze of lanes to the unlikely country location of The Holocaust Centre.
Our reason for undertaking this trip was to spend the day working under the guidance of Director Geoff Readman to begin to develop material for our new piece of theatre-in-education The Last Train. This programme focuses on the compelling, tragic but also hopeful stories of those children who escaped Nazi Europe to Britain on what became known as the Kindertransport. The day was an opportunity for the creative team who will be working on the project with Geoff, as well as the rest of The Play House core team to come together and collectively explore the resources available at the centre and to share their own perspectives and ideas.
One of the permanent exhibitions at the centre is a series of interactive rooms called The Journey. In moving through these rooms and watching and listening to audio visual elements you follow the fictional story of Leo, a Jewish boy living in pre-war Germany and the various difficulties he and his family face leading up to their decision to send him on the Kindertransport. You visit his family home, sit in his school room, walk the street where his father’s tailors is located and see the graffiti daubed on the shop front and the shattered glass. Leo’s story is interlaced with the testimony of real life Kindertransport survivors, with their cherished object from home being displayed in the early parts of the exhibition. Experiencing The Journey formed the greater part of our explorations of the centre and from this our own ideas began to formulate.
The most humbling and moving part of the day was spending time with a ‘survivor’, now a man in his eighties. He shared his own story with us, including the fact that he had lost both his parents to the concentration camps. Despite the harrowing nature of his memories, he spoke with incredible clarity and dignity and extended great warmth (and some humour) towards us. He was most interested to hear of our project and expressed a willingness to speak further with us.
All in all it was an enlightening, emotional and stimulating day. Personally we could not help but place ourselves in the shoes of those parents and children who endured the kindertransport and the traumatic events surrounding it. Professionally it made us reflect on some of the difficult journeys the children we work with experience en route to Britain. Creatively it armed us amply to begin the exciting task of devising a new piece of work in September and the two cars on the way home were lit up with conversation.
For more information about The Holocaust Centre please click here. The Language Alive! tour of The Last Train will be delivered in Primary and Secondary schools during Autumn term starting on 29th September 2009. For further information or bookings please contact Gavin Medza on: 0121 464 5712