Presented by Glam – Global Arts Management
Reviewed 18 February 2018
This show is a sequel to Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany and continues the story of Eleanor Ramrath Garner after she returns to America after 7 years in war torn Berlin. It is written and performed with great feeling by Eleanor’s granddaughter Ingrid Garner.
After surviving WWII and the Russian occupation of Berlin, Eleanor, her brother Frank and Father return to America leaving behind their mother and two younger siblings. The US government would not pay to repatriate Mrs Ramrath because she was a German citizen. She chose to stay behind because she wanted Eleanor and Frank to return to school in America as soon as possible because they had missed so much schooling during the war. It would be two years before the family was reunited.
The action moves back and forth between her new life in America and Eleanor’s memories of her life in Berlin. Simple tasks such as fetching her aunt’s sewing kit from the basement are beyond her as the fear returns that the building will collapse and she will be buried alive. Or when the siren sounds for assembly at school we see Eleanor experiencing a flashback to an air raid as the lighting turns red and we hear the sound of bombs. I imagine Eleanor was suffering from what today is recognised as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD.
The title of the play is very apt as Eleanor really is a stranger in the country of her birth. She is mortified on discovering her story and picture in the school’s paper on the first day of school as she again, as in Germany, so desperately wants to fit in. At her first assembly she wonders why no one stops the girls who are chanting and jumping around on the stage, very different from the rigid discipline Eleanor had known in German schools. The girl next to her, Dot, has to explain what cheerleaders are – just the first of many explanations.
Eleanor’s need to be liked and to fit in is so strong that she pretends a photo of her brother Frank is of a boyfriend which raises her status, at least until Frank transfers to her school. We see Eleanor becoming a young woman and dating a friend from her pre-Berlin days who is now in the navy. All seems to be progressing well until he kisses her passionately and Eleanor is transported back to Berlin, experiencing again the terror when a Russian soldier attempted to rape her.
The same basic set of 2 chairs and a cabin trunk and simple light changes seen in the first play are again used to great effect and while Garner gives another powerful performance, as seen in the first part of Eleanor’s story, the newness of the play itself shows through. The play concludes with the voice of Eleanor herself explaining that in writing her memories of the war she had finally, after 50 years, been able to bring back together the child and the adult experiences of her life and experience some healing.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 5: 4
Venue: Tandanya Theatre, 253 Grenfell St Adelaide
Season: 17-18, 24-25 February 3,10 March at 4.30pm 14-18 March at 6.30 pm
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: $32, Conc $28