The Pianist of Willesden Lane
Venue and town: St. James Theatre, London
Director: Hershey Felder
Producer: Hershey Felder Presents
Cast: Mona Golabek
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, including introductory talk
Dates of run: Sept 7 – Oct 22
After the trauma of Kristallnacht in November 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was persuaded to agree that thousands of Jewish children come to Britain through a rescue effort that became known as the Kindertransport.
It’s a story that has resonated powerfully ever since and has taken on a new, reproachful force in a Brexit Britain deeply suspicious of refugees and intent on putting its own narrow self-interest first.
One of those escaping from Vienna just before World War II broke out was Lisa Jura whose parting promise to her mother was that she would carry on studying music.
The Pianist of Willesden Lane is the inspiring, humbling story of how she defied the odds to do so, narrated and performed by her daughter Mona Golabek, also a pianist, who tells us she owes her life to Britain’s generosity and her grandparents’ courage in entrusting their daughter to the Kindertransport.
A copy of the Kindertransport file on Lisa Jura included in the programme attests the bleak truth of her tale, but Golabek’s telling has the force of a romance with a happy ending and her virtuosity lies in her ability to deliver passionate renditions from the mainstream classical repertoire at the same time as she narrates a story softened by the music.
The harsh truth in our own times is that, even as the public tosses coins into the collection for the World Jewish Relief’s Refugee Crisis Appeal at the end of the show, Europe is turning away those, who like Lisa Jura, have overwhelming talents and burning ambitions to fulfill.
Barbara Lewis © 2016.