I am going to start using this space as a black-hole (for that, really, is what cyberspace feels like) sounding-board for the next project that I am working on.
I have set myself a challenge. By the end of the year I am going to do a public reading of a readable draft of My Name is Truda Vitz. This is a one-woman show about my grandmother, Gertrude Vitz (who everybody called Truda), and her escape from Nazi Vienna in 1938 at the ripe old age of seventeen.
I never met Truda – she died of breast cancer a month before I was born – and as a result I have always been totally fascinated by her. This seventeen year old girl escaped Vienna on a train by herself (whilst her father, Ernst, fucked off to Cuba with his mistress Else) to arrive in England, where she was immediately registered as an enemy alien. We still have her Alien Registration Book, which has entries such as “Gertrude Vitz is granted permission to own a bicycle under the Alien Movement Restriction Act 1940”. We all know what a threat adolescent Jewish girls posed to the safety of Mother England, right? Her only means of survival initially was the contraband jewellery that Ernst had covered her in before she got on the train. She not only survived alone, in England, for seven years by herself but she also put herself through a science degree at London University. This is where she met my grandfather, Geoff Satchell, who was her biology tutor. They married, had my Dad, and promptly moved to Dunedin, which is geographically absolutely the furthest place that you can get from Vienna without skirting Antarctica (a little-known but true fact: there is a massive Jewish-Viennese community in Dunedin, all because it’s the polar opposite of their home-town).
This is what I would like the show to be about, particularly focusing on that moment of transition between being a young adult, and being able to pursue whatever potential or lack of potential you may have had, and becoming a refugee, where fear is the driving principle of all of your actions.
I guess this is the start of tracking this process.
Let’s see how it goes.