Until 02 Mar 2019

Review by John Wells

Presented at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival

“Eleanor’s Story” is simple, unadorned theatre – a performer, Ingrid Garner, a few props and a compelling tale to tell. Eleanor is a German-American eleven year-old. In 1939, her taciturn father takes Eleanor’s family back to Germany, where he has secured a lucrative job. The family’s bubbling excitement chills as they cross the sea: Germany is at war. This brilliant, absorbing and layered monologue follows Eleanor’s family’s desperately difficult life in Berlin. (The real Eleanor is Garner’s grandmother, and this true familial connection gives the production real poignancy.)

The writing is carefully-crafted and well-honed by performance. The tale moves along quickly, with an intense and fearful momentum. Eleanor’s childish awareness only makes the horror more pointed. Garner punctuates the narrative with little moments of stark dread and wry humour that make us shrink with disgust and bubble with laughter. These moments are emotionally devastating.

Garner is completely on top of her material. This is a subtle, nuanced and superb piece of acting. The smallest details - a glance, an incline of the head, a smile held too long – can transform into shattering moments of theatre. Garner effortlessly evokes the fear, sadness and confusion of her family’s awful plight. Her dialogue between Eleanor and her older, swaggering brother Frank are heartbreaking and beautiful.

This is impeccable Fringe theatre, and an important story to tell.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)