Re-read act 2 scene 2 from page 83 onwards (Boats hooter sounds) to the end of the play. Discuss the effects of Samuels’ imaginative use of dramatic techniques and stagecraft in this extract and the play as a whole.
The extract comes at the end of the play and features the final climactic episode in Evelyn’s journey to confront her past. Here, as with elsewhere in the play, Samuels uses staging devices and dramatic techniques to increase the poignancy of this final episode and leave a lasting impression on the audience.
One of the key themes in the play is the relationship between mothers and daughters, and the fragility of such relationships. In the extract Eva is impassive despite her mother Helga's pleas “We must be together” and her use of imperatives to almost push her daughter towards the waiting boat and a new life. The dialogue between these characters remains awkward and stilted, this emotional reunion is reduced to a series of interrogatives and simple sentences, it is as if they are strangers to each other. This is further emphasised by the stage direction “HELGA embraces EVA who stands stock still”. Eventually Helga accepts that her daughter, like so many others, is lost, addressing her with her adopted anglicised name of Evelyn and completing their separation which began at the opening of the play when Eva embarked on the Kindertransport.
The theme is continued in the extract in the current day scene which features the separation of Evelyn and her own daughter Faith. Almost like a mirror image the mother is again trying to keep her child. Evelyn tells Faith to “Stay my little girl forever”, but once again this is not possible, Faith must seek independence, here though there are no Nazis at the door or the threat of death camps forcing her departure (as was the trigger for Helga sending her daughter away) instead it is simply a process of growing up. The stage directions symbolically describe Faith exiting the stage for the final time carrying a “ box of toys” and thus moving from dependent child to independent adult.
The play is structured in a non-linear chronology, past and present are interwoven throughout as Samuels attempts to show that the past is “part of the inner life of the present”. This structure helps reinforce the audience's understanding of Evelyn, she is clearly trying to cope with a traumatic experience which shadows her life even now. In this extract though Samuels allows the past and present to collide. At this climactic point Evelyn confronts her mother and accuses her of being the Ratcatcher, a nightmarish child stealing character from a children's story, she uses the metaphor “razor eyes” and hyperbole “I was drowning in leagues and leagues of salty ocean” in an emotional outpouring which allows her to voice her true feelings. The repressed anger and guilt is vocalised in a series of accusatory lines each beginning with second person direct address “you”. She voices the rage Samuels refers to in the introduction, the anger which some children who survived the holocaust felt because their parents sent them away
“Didn't it ever occur to you that I might have wanted to die with you. Because I did. I never wanted to live without you and you made me.”
This coming together of past and present happens earlier in the play at another high crisis point when Evelyn's secret has been discovered at the end of act 1, scene 2; she talks to her child self Eva and promises to protect her from…