They say that history repeats itself. That some things never change. Central (Story) Line is a stark reminder that if we as a species aren’t careful this rings very true and often not in a good way. Central (Story) Line by (the brilliantly named) ‘Fingers Crossed Theatre Company’ is the story of three friends thrust together through circumstance and held together through shared experience and understanding. The tale is told through a series of train/tube journeys, beginning with their escape from Nazi-controlled Germany and their arrival in Liverpool Street Station. This part is a staging of the Kindertransport, the real-life evacuation of children from Germany via the Netherlands.
The story moves forward in time with each ‘journey’ and the three characters age together, their lives are intertwined to a greater or lesser extent through the piece.
The choice of scenes are made to mirror political events concerning human rights and equality, predominantly in the UK but also further afield and we are offered a snapshot of the hard-fought progression of the nation around many areas of equality; religion, politics, LGBT and gender amongst others and how these issues could conceivably have affected the lives of three people, politically active but not what would typically be called activists, trying to forge careers and relationships.
If it sounds like a heavy subject, that’s because it is but, while Fingers Crossed treat this with a respectful and serious approach, there are elements of tenderness and tasteful humour to balance out the mood. Very cleverly done as many of these humorous moments stand alone from the main plot, taking place during scene changes, and as such leave space for the topics discussed to be treated as lightly or severely as are necessary.
This is not solely a political production though and part of the beauty of Central (Story) Line is that the political undertones, important as they are, are the backdrop to our three characters’ lives and their efforts to make a positive mark on society and to make successful lives for themselves.
Playing characters from childhood to old age and beginning the performance entirely in German, this three-team cast offer an excellent performance and maintain the nuances of the characters they are playing while giving them new mannerisms in each scene. No mean feat. Perhaps a little more attention to detail could have been afforded to the older end of the characterisation but it can’t be easy for three fresh-faced youths to play 80-year olds without some serious effort and with so much to portray and such quick turnarounds on scenes (with costume changes between each), some minor weaknesses are easily forgiven.
With the ending sequence beginning with snapshots of newsreels announcing Trump’s inauguration, with the constant battles in the middle east and with our own rise in right-wing politics, we are reminded that the times we face are tumultuous and there are some parallels to be drawn with the tumultuous past.
As Germany fell to Nationalism and political extremism much of the world looked the other way, but Britain offered aid. Fingers Crossed Theatre Company are here to remind us of the lives that have been saved in the past. Lest we forget.
Review by Damien Russell
One tube ride, 7 Scenes, 67 Years.
World War II is raging. England has opened its borders to safeguard unaccompanied refugee children. 10.000 young Holocaust survivors have been sent to safety by their parents on the Kindertransport.
The year is 1940, the last Kindertransport to escape the German forces has arrived in England. Three anxious children await on the platform of Liverpool Street Station wondering what will happen next.
Central (Story) Line spans 67 years of friendship as they move from Churchill through Thatcher into Blair and beyond…
September 9 – 13, 8.30pm – Theatre N16