Eleanor’s Story: Home is the Stranger is the sequel to Ingrid Garner’s Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany. In both shows, Garner portrays her grandmother Eleanor when she was a teenage girl. Whilst An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany focused on the years 1939 – 1945, Home Is the Stranger picks up the story after World War Two, when Eleanor and some of her family return to the United States.
The stage is again simple: A suitcase, two wooden chairs and Eleanor (Garner) herself. Garner plays all the roles, displaying an astonishing versatility and a convincing range of accents. Good use is made of sound and lighting effects, with evocative music taking the audience back to the 1940s. Garner movingly portrays Eleanor’s post-war trauma and, like in An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany, there are some shocking moments.
The piece fails to come together as cohesively, however. The scenes in post-war America lack the urgency of those scenes set in Nazi and post-war Germany. It’s hard to care about Eleanor’s teenage angst and isolation when contrasted with the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and the threat of rape from Russian soldiers in occupied Berlin.
It’s understandable that, after years of performing the same show, Garner wanted to try out something new this year; yet Home Is the Stranger still needs some work if it is to be of the same standard as its predecessor. Things weren’t helped by some technical difficulties with the sound, although that is hardly Garner’s fault. Home Is a Stranger is a good continuation of a fascinating story, but it might be slightly confusing at first for those who haven’t seen the first show.