Pros: The story is so captivating that the lengthy running time passed without me noticing.
Cons: I couldn’t see the projections on the backdrop properly from my seat to the side of the stage.
Dinah likes to describe herself as a ‘monster’ teenager. Abandoned at birth by her 15 year old mother, she goes from home to home until the day she is assigned to Lotte, an elderly and rather odd lady, who seems particularly keen on fostering her. Both women have wounds to heal and both find closure through experiencing their own pain from a different point of view. A series of flashbacks guides the audience through both women’s stories in this well-balanced and accomplished production from Cornwall-based Pipeline Theatre.
The character of Lotte symbolises a whole generation of young migrants who were taken away from their families during the Second World War and sent to England to escape the Nazis. This is a difficult topic to confront and it would be easy to fall into meaningless rhetoric but Transports avoids this. Instead, we are presented with mere facts and with the hardship of two estranged women in need of a real family.
The set is minimal yet extremely functional; two sections of upstanding train track as a backdrop recall the implications of the title, while also serving as home furniture and a projection surface. Unfortunately it was not easy to see all these projections from my seat to the side, but this didn’t hugely affect my enjoyment of the piece. Every corner of the stage is in use and the two actresses move from one side to the other, smoothly facilitating scene changes.
The lighting, the music and the sound effects provide essential contributions to the performance. Never too loud and never inappropriate, they help to frame each sequence and mark the distinction between the two parallel lives well. Ambient noise is also used to set the background when there is a change of location. Despite the moving topic, writer and director Jon Welch doesn’t miss a chance to add a funny touch, which helps to hold back the tears on more than one occasion. The dialogue is beautifully polished and executed with absolutely the right tone.
Kudos to the production for its attention to detail. Juliet Welch is delightful as Lotte, her German inflection sounding quite natural. Her multidimensional character is the real protagonist of the play and it feels like she has carefully considered her every word and gesture. When leaving the show, I was surprised to find out that the character of Lotte was inspired by the mother of set designer Alan Munden. Upon learning this, I decided to give up on holding those tears back. I know I won’t be the only one to leave the Pleasance looking down to avoid revealing my emotions.
Author: Jon Welch
Director: Jon Welch
Producer: Pipeline Theatre
Box Office: 020 7609 1800
Booking link: https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/transports/performances
Booking Until: 12 March 2016