It’s 25 years since Diane Samuels’ powerful drama first moved audiences, with something that was new to many. Since then the story of the Kindertransport children has entered public consciousness, thanks to high-profile real-life stories as well as a succession of productions of Samuels’ play. This anniversary production is especially timely, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), when the Nazis incited violence against Jews across Germany – a chilling curtain-raiser to the Holocaust. It also has new urgency, chiming with the stories of families fleeing persecution across the world, desperately seeking refuge, facing separation.
The year is 1919. The Great War is finally over and Poppy Wright, inspired by her suffragette teacher, arrives in London from the north of England to make her mark, rather than stay in service as a nanny. In the heart of the East End, in a back alleyway, she finds work in Smith’s tailoring and costumiers’ workshop. There she meets not only Smith, the Russian Jewish tailor with a Chinese past, but also George the chauffeur and war hero and Tommy Johns, the music hall female impersonator, also back from the trenches.
Liverpudlian playwright Diane Samuels talks to Judi Herman about identity and change from London’s East End 1919 to now. These themes feature in her play Poppy + George, about Northerner Poppy Wright, who is taken on at a tailoring workshop by the proprietor Smith, a Russian Jew with a Chinese past. It’s here that Poppy also meets Tommy the music hall artist and George the chauffeur, both changed by serving in the trenches.
Diane also discusses her new project (at 21:49), Song of Dina, a multimedia oratorio with music by composer Maurice Chernick, based on the story of the Patriarch Jacob’s only daughter.
Poppy + George runs to Saturday 27 February, 7.30pm & 2.30pm, £12-£22.50, at Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Rd, WD17 1JZ; 01923 225671. http://watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
Song of Dina launch event on Wednesday 6 April, 7.45pm, FREE, at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8989. www.jw3.org.uk