Eleanor’s Story: Home is The Stranger is the sequel in Ingrid Garner’s stage adaptation of her grandmother Eleanor’s autobiography.
This time she brings the last chapters of the book into focus, shedding light on life post World War II.
Berlin is submerged in catastrophe, hunger and poverty.
Eleanor lives under the shadow of tragedies with a tiny ray of hope of a bright day when she can finally return to her birth country, America, somewhere she can find her beloved childhood memories and call it home.
She goes there on a ship of dreams, passing through storms and finally landing in her glorious dreamland.
In a matter of days, Eleanor’s life shifts from grave peril to great peace. However, she finds herself in a changed place, in a strange home, where she also seems like a stranger.
There are battles to be fought in the free world too. Eleanor’s metamorphosis is beset by challenges; an entirely new daily routine, the weight of responsibility to help all her friends and family still stuck in war-torn Germany, and her own war trauma.
Ingrid’s decision to split her grandmother’s book into two parts (during and post war), enables her to explore each period in more detail. Yet each part is a complete, stand-alone epic.
Whilst Ingrid uses many of the same techniques in both shows, the structure of the sequel is more ingenious, employing a series of neat flashbacks to wartime that suspend Eleanor between her life in America and her war diary from Berlin.
Ingrid seamlessly moves from playing one character to the next, switching accents and mannerisms with perfect accuracy.
At the centre is Eleanor, and in Ingrid’s narration and portrayal of Eleanor-with first person references- the two are barely distinguishable.
It is only at the end, when we hear a recording of Eleanor’s actual voice reading from her book, that we are powerfully jolted back to reality.
This is a captivating one-woman performance where the audience is drawn into the complexities of an existence forged in war and beyond; of ambition and compassion, belonging and otherness, innocence and guilt, war and peace.