Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Diary of Anne Frank (theatre)

Ahead of Blonde Poison (14th-16th May), The Diary of Anne Frank is coming to the Devonshire Park theatre in the first week of May. Both plays are concerned with the lives of Jews during the Second World War with each play viewing the subject from the opposing side.

Anne Frank's famous diary charts two years of her life from 1942 to 1944. Whilst hidden from the Nazis with her Jewish family in a secret annexe in Amsterdam, Anne documented her hopes, frustrations and day to day experiences in confinement. 

The 1950s Pulitzer prize winning play dramatises Anne’s wry observations of herself and her companions and includes material that had originally been censored by her father, Otto Frank. The script has been criticised for being too heavily weighted towards the positive aspects of Anne's Diary so those who know the original text very well might think the play too 'light'. Anne's relationship with her mother is not as antagonistic and the potential romance with Peter is given a more prominent role. However, as a piece of theatre in its own right, the play is well worth seeing and younger theatregoers will certainly find it very useful if their GCSE history syllabus includes the Second World War

This Touring Consortium production stars Amy Dawson in the title role with Christopher Timothy (All Creatures Great & Small) as Otto Frank and Kerry Peers (The Bill) as Anne's mother, Edith Frank.

The Diary of Anne Frank is at the Devonshire Park Theatre from Tuesday the 1st to Saturday the 5th of May. Evening performances begin at 19:45 and the two matinees, Wednesday and Saturday, begin at 14:30. In case it influences anyone's decision, BF and I are planning to go the to Wednesday evening performance!

Have added my review in the comments section below.

1 comment:

  1. Diary of Anne Frank review:
    The first sign that The Diary of Anne Frank was going to be more than worth the ticket price was the care that had been taken over the set. As we took our seats, we could see a raised floor supported by piles of books and various items hanging from above. Some of these items, I later
    googled, were found in the annexe after the Franks had left and others, such as a swing and a bicycle, were perhaps hung 'out of reach' of the actors as their real life equivalents would have been out of reach of the hidden Jews. As the play began, it began to rain. In the theatre. On the stage. Deliberately! As a method of grabbing an audience's attention, this was one of the best I've seen.

    All the eleven actors were well cast and convincing. The Van Daan adults carried most of the humour and Peter & Anne's romance was sweet but without being too cloying. Amy Dawson as Anne was just perfect - irritating, exuberant, self-centered and great fun - and her characterisation did not falter throughout the play which, considering that none of the eight hidden Jews left the stage, was quite a feat. I did like this device as it cleverly put across the claustrophobia of the living conditions. Even when characters were not in the central set, they were always still visible, giving no chance for any real privacy.
    Kerry Peers as Anne's mother, Edith, also provided an interesting character study, mostly quietly underplayed but giving the impression of being always the linchpin, always dependable. Because of this, when Edith's mental health did start to unravel, the contrast was all the more shocking to watch.

    Excerpts from the Diary were either spoken directly to the audience by Anne or played as a pre-recorded vocal. Unfortunately, the cello music that accompanied the recorded voice did mean that some of the narration was obscured but otherwise this worked well and provided extra interest to cover scene changes.
    Another simple theatrical device that I appreciated was the soldier. I won't say more in case readers haven't yet seen the play but I thought this was a brilliant way to portray the constant threat.

    Otto Frank's last speech left the audience in a stunned silence. I had found Christopher Timothy's performance more muted than I expected, but the emotion he showed in the final few moments was very moving.

    The Diary of Anne Frank does not provide any revelations about Anne, or really have anything 'new' to say about this period in history, but as an important historical reminder and as a good piece of theatre, I would highly recommend it.