From the moment a little girl in the audience pushed that hidden button on the wall to start the show, I just knew I was in for an incredible experience. “Kinder” breaks all expectations, proving that tears can flow during a puppetry performance. The production’s intricate puppetry and shadow play create a mesmerizing visual experience that’s as enchanting as it is thought-provoking. With a whirlwind of screens, moving elements, and cleverly hidden surprises, the three-person cast achieves the impossible, much like the miraculous Kindertransport itself. And let me tell you, “Kinder” hits you “right in the feels” in ways you might not expect.
A Symphony of Artistry: Puppetry and Shadow Theatre Perfection
This performance expertly weaves together puppetry and shadow theatre to tell the story of young Babi’s epic journey from Germany to Margate. To give a bit of background here: Kindertransport was a historical effort during World War II that involved the evacuation of nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied territories to safety in the United Kingdom. Initiated in 1938 and continuing until the outbreak of the war in 1939, Kindertransport aimed to rescue these children from the looming threat of the Holocaust and provide them with a chance at survival. Here, we focus on a travel of kids saved from Czechoslovakia into the UK.
The stage is a whirlwind of screens, moving elements, and hidden surprises, all managed by a small, talented team. What seems like a team of hundreds is just three talented individuals who expertly orchestrate the unfolding drama. Trains are moving on the wall, windows are being opened, someone walks and spits (!!) on the ceiling of the studio, and finally, a cute puppet dog runs around, playing with the audience. The complexity of the production is a marvel in itself. The show’s layers of meaning resonate differently based on your background and experiences. Whether you’re an immigrant, a refugee, or simply looking for a profound connection, “Kinder” delivers a touching and memorable experience.
A Dance of Emotions: Balanced Audience Participation
Balancing poignant themes with delicate audience participation, the play offers a blend of emotions that mirrors life’s bittersweet moments. The inclusion of the audience feels seamless and purposeful, designed to engage both kids and adults without any hint of awkwardness. There’s a sense of unity as we collectively participate in passing items to actors or reading a page from a book to comfort Babi during her journey, always with the assurance that anyone feeling overwhelmed can step outside for a breather.
Layers of Emotion and Connection: “Kinder’s” Profound Impact
Let me admit, if you had told me I’d shed tears during a puppet show, I’d have laughed it off. Yet, this show shattered my expectations entirely. A standout aspect of “Kinder” is its ability to infuse difficult scenes with moments of lightness. The play’s complexity parallels the layers of real-life experiences it draws upon. Characters speak Czech, German, and just a little English. The immersive experience of being surrounded by events we don’t fully understand, in a language that just sounds foreign, adds to an immersive experience – we all feel like little lost children in an unknown setting. But a scene involving a Czech medovnik cake brings a touch of sweetness and calmness to the story, serving as a reminder that even in the darkest or confusing of times, small acts of kindness can shine through.
Echoes of Memory: “Kinder’s” Multigenerational Echo
At the same time, both adults and children interpret the play differently. Audio-recorded memories of people who were saved in Kindertransport and talk about about their personal journey and life before the war serve as a beautiful, authentic narration of the story. Strong, emotional moments like breaking windows in stores owned by Jews and burning a synagogue may just be glanced at by the kids in the audience, but get very much understood by the older audience members – just like the flashing red swastika and a queue of people entering a Theresienstadt concentration camp. A line of shoes, displayed at the very end of the show, made me tear up again, with its simple reminder of the souls lost in the war.
In many ways, “Kinder” reminds me of the film “Amélie” (the movie), where emotions run deep but are cocooned in layers of tenderness. The play’s comedic soul, Babi, adds a charming dimension that balances the weight of the narrative. The journey she undertakes is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming, radiating with appreciation for the power of human connection.
Inclusive Haven: Little Angel Studio’s Thoughtful Touch
Beyond the stage, the Little Angel Studio itself deserves applause for its thoughtfulness. The inclusive waiting area, designed as a garden with diverse seating and toys, sets a welcoming tone. A tray at the entrance, offering fidgets and ear defenders, is a small gesture that speaks volumes about the care taken to ensure everyone’s comfort.
To sum up, “Kinder” is a 5-star show, but I feel like in this case stars are just not enough. I give this show a big heart on top of an array of golden stars. If you’re looking to see 1 show this year that truly surprises and moves you, make it this one. You won’t regret.
*I received the ticket in exchange for an honest review of the show
Smoking Apples Theatre
Director/Writer Molly Freeman
Set Design/Puppet Design/
Production Manager Matt Lloyd
Co-Deviser Hattie Thomas
Script/Co-Devisor/Sound Design George Bellamy
Executive Producer Sofia Stephanou
Producer Kate McStraw
Cultural Consultant David Burchhardt
Performer Tea Poldervaart
Composer Jon Ouin
Lighting Design Sherry Coenen
Dramaturgy Sam Redway
Lighting Programmer Chris Marsh-Hilfiker
Production Electrician Tom Lightbody
Scenic Painter Charlotte Cross and Claire Cousins
Access Consultant Jess Mabel Jones
SEN Consultant Luke Breen
Marketing Support Erin Caitlin Karn