VANESSA Rosenthal’s new play, Karen’s Weg: A Kindertransport Life, tells the life story of the Jewish kindertransport survivor and poet Karen Gershon in the York Theatre Royal Studio on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Using Karen’s poems and memories, Vanessa has reconstructed the individual traumas of the kindertransport years as a dramatised internal debate.
Karen had arrived at the Dovercourt holiday camp in Essex as part of the second kindertransport of refugee Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1938. “From trainee Palestinian pioneer in Scotland to chorus girl in Leeds, from war bride bereft of family to orphaned foreign student, this is a story of simple but heart-breaking fortitude and of commitment to a poetry of unflinching truth,” says Vanessa.
Presented by Yellow Leaf theatre, the play carries the endorsement of Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a friend of the poet and of Karen’s daughter and literary executor, the artist Stella Tripp.
It is set in a 1990 return to Karen’s native town of Bielefeld and speaks through the turmoil of her unending relationship with her childhood self. The drama’s moods, from childhood idyll to the pains and responsibility of adult witness, are echoed in piano and violin performances of the music of Smetana, Berg, Dvorak and Britten and the 1940s stage.
Karen is played by Vanessa Rosenthal and her younger self by Lindesay Mace, who already has played Anne Frank. The musicians will be accompanist Marion Raper and violinist David Riley and the play is directed by Chris Wilkinson.
Further performances will follow at 7 Arts in Leeds on July 27 and 28 and at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 13 to 25 at theSpace@Venue45.
Tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday’s 7.45pm performances and Wednesday’s 2.30pm matinee can be booked on 01904 623568 or online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk