I’m starting off my Sunday fringe viewing by taking in Eleanor’s Story at the Royal Albert Arms. This is my second show at the arms this weekend. I was here yesterday when I was watching Dungeons and Shakespeare. It’s not the greatest of venues for seeing plays. There are a lot of posts and pillars set in the middle of the room. This means ther is a lot of partially obstructed viewing. Soundwise it’s very good. It’s wide and not too deep.
Eleanor’s Story: Life After War is a sequel to a previous previous Fringe play. I did not see the previous play and I don’t think it’s going to make a difference. This sequel continues the story of Eleanor, an American girl who spent all of World War II living in Berlin as an enemy alien.
Eleanor’s Story picks up with the war anding and Eleanor returning to the United States. Her German mother and younger siblings are staying behind in Berlin. So, Eleanor is going through this transition time without her mother.
There are show that play on your emotions and plays that unlock your emotions. Eleanor’s Story is definitely in the second category. Tears will likely come whether you want them to or not. The tears are not because this is a sad show(although there are sad parts). It just really connects deeply with your soul.
The show stars Ingrid Garner, the granddaughter of Eleanor.
Getting Caught Up in Eleanor’s story
The show starts with audio clips that announce the end of World War II. Garner enters a stage set with two chairs, and a trunk. In short order Garner introduces her family. As a one woman performer she swiftly, subtly, and deftly moves from one character to another.
Eleanor arrives in Berlin as a child, and is leaving as a 16 year old. As a child living in Berlin she has seen many horrors, and received hints of others. She experiences trauma without being able to name it.
The show moves back and forth between Eleanor’s new life in the states and her old life in Berlin. As each scene is overlaid on the next we begin to see the depth of the trauma. A scene between Eleanor and her aunt underscores Eleanor’s trauma: her difficulty in expressing it, and her aunt’s difficulty in comprehending it.
Simple things, we take for granted and even enjoy are traumatic for Eleanor. Watching this show brought to mind going to Canada Day Fireworks. One of the people I with came to Canada as a refugee from Eritrea. When the fireworks went off she went into a protective physical shell. I was caught off guard. Then, one of the people I was with said, they remind her of the bombs and missiles she experienced back home.
Despite all the talk of trauma, the show ends on a positive note. This is a show that does take something out of you while you watch. However, you get back so much more than you give.
Eleanor’s Story should help us develop empathy for the refugees who come to our country. Not just reugees, either. We need to develop a lot more empathy for the people in our communities.
I would reccommend not only seeing this play, but also picking up the book on which it is based.