Until 18 Mar 2018

Review by Kylie Pedler

A vivid journey through a unique personal story.

Two years ago I witnessed Ingrid Garner’s amazing portrayal of her grandmother’s story in “Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany”. It was an honour to have now witnessed her stellar performance in the sequel.

It is Spring, 1946 and Eleanor is now 16, having lived in Germany for 7 years. The sequel details life after the war: exploring the impossible choices made by a loving family due to a mother’s German citizenship and a desire to return to their home country – sad farewells, frightening storms and difficulties re-assimilating to a now foreign America.

Every day is full of shocks and adjustments. History class for example exposes hard realities, causing confusion and guilt. Naivety is lost, as an awareness of the closeness of proximity to Jewish extermination is realised while a sense of shame is felt for being American and therefore connected to the devastation of Japan.

Eleanor managed to survive WWII as a young American living in an enemy country, but after suffering immense trauma, life will never be the same! School bells are reminders of nightly bomb attacks, common phrases like ‘spilt milk’ prompt flashbacks of horrific loss and being asked to enter a cellar evokes anxiety and fear of repeating past dangers.

Alone, with no-one to talk to, surrounded by people from completely different world experiences, this young woman waited for news of family and friends across the border and struggled to find a sense of peace. 50 years later, desperate to be released from the prison of her childhood memories, Eleanor wrote her autobiography.

Garner is an amazing storyteller, transforming between characters within an instant. Through a shift of posture and change of accent, Garner skilfully portrays numerous characters, however always ensuring Eleanor remains the character of focus. With only a trunk, two chairs and a jug of water, Garner is the story: captivating, commanding and demonstrating her exquisite skill. Bringing a sense of authenticity to every situation, Garner humanises the faces of the war and the turbulent journey of her Grandmother to find peace in this heartrending true story.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)