Compelling, Heartfelt Performance in Eleanor’s Story: Home Is The Stranger

4.5 stars

Stories about war often fall victim to the temptation of focusing on the grand theatres, the sweeping engagements, and the larger societal pressures. Not so in Eleanor’s Story: Home Is The Stranger.

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

In the follow up show to her internationally acclaimed Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany, Ingrid Garner continues to deliver a powerful piece of one-woman theatre that draws the audience into the world of a young girl’s struggle with a sense of place.

Where the precursor to this show had the titular character caught up in the horror of being in Berlin itself during World War Two, this piece has Eleanor returning to the United States following the fall of Germany and is all the more powerful for the change of setting.

This far more familiar placement allows the audience to focus more on the character than the—thankfully, for most of us—less relatable setting of a war-ravaged country. We see through a young Eleanor’s eyes the challenge of recovering from a horrific experience during a formative period of her life. It’s a wholly accurate portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder, and at times is shockingly confronting.

Garner’s amazing ability to jump between characters in a heartbeat brings the many people of this story to life. Simple, consistent changes of posture, expression, and even the widening of her eyes helps to solidify the friends and family of Eleanor in what is a mesmerising performance.

Sudden lighting changes are used to great effect, along with audio queues to transport the audience into flashbacks. It’s through these moments, recounting distressing memories, that we see the continued struggle for Eleanor as she attempts to return to a normal life.

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Eleanor’s Story: Home Is The Stranger is an emotionally rich show that doesn’t rely on any familiarity with the prequel to deliver a heart-wrenching experience. There’s a clear personal connection with the material—the real life Eleanor is Garner’s grandmother—and this facilitates a marvellous performance.

Far from simply a period piece, this is a uniquely human story that has the audience enraptured, and deeply engaged.

Tickets available from the FRINGE WORLD website.