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The Secret Diary of Anne Frank

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Intensity, history and emotion

Edinburgh 2010 –C too, St.Columba’s by the Castle -30th August. 17.00

The Diary of Anne Frank is set in a secret annex, at the back of a factory, during the Second World War. It’s six rooms become the home of the Frank family and the Van Daan family at the beginning of this play, when the German government is threatening to return Otto Frank’s eldest daughter Margot, to Germany. Her quiet presence is sympathetically played by Louise Busnel. These threatened Jewish families are given this hiding space by businessman Mr. Krugler and his assistant Miep.  It remains their home for the two years covered by the play.

This is a true story based on the found diary of Anne Frank who was unfortunate enough to be growing up in Germany when the Nazis relentless anti-Jewish policies were being rolled out all over Europe. The family sought safety in Holland. The Nazis invaded. They went into hiding.

Thirteen year old Anne grows to fifteen while living deeply hidden. She is well played by Caroline McCaffrey who manages to covey both Anne’s naieve enthusiasm and her frightened distress with equal truthfulness. She is believably very young and irritating, as well as delightful, loving and thoughtful in turns, emanating hope throughout, as do the original diary notes which form the basis from which this work grew. It is an exploration of the effects of extreme stress on ordinary human beings sharing too small a space, unable to go out and confined in silence during the day. At night they can make some sound because they are beyond the hearing of the surrounding Nazi occupied world. They attempt to live peacefully. Seen through the eyes of a teenage girl growing through puberty, the Diary is both factual and personal. Voice Over quotations link the scenes and give a sense of time passing. Two years is telescoped into one hour packed with emotion.

Anne’s father Otto Frank is beautifully played as a kindly gentleman by Jack Greenlees. He is Anne’s ally, a compassionate husband, friend and father, capable of being a quiet hero, keeping the peace under all circumstances. His wife, Edith is caring but dominant as “ the enemy mother “ in Anne’s teenage mind. Edith loves her family and her friends but becomes progressively more and more edgy as the pressures of hunger, fear and lack of trust begin to overwhelm her. She is delicately played by Louise Hemfrey who creates a character for whom great sympathy can be felt, even when her intolerance shows.

The Van Daan Family are Hermann, Petronella and Peter. Peter is slightly older than Anne and initially very embarrassed by Anne’s joking attentions. Michael MacFarlane gives him a strong likeable presence and we understand why Anne grows to love him. His parents are an unhappy pair. His social climbing, fashionable mother Petronella, well embodied by Emily Muldoon, clings to her fur coat as a status symbol and a link to her dead father. His weak father, Hermann, Will Moore, feels unloved by his wife and seems very unloving to everyone. His theft of food in the night causes everyone, including himself, great distress.

They are all joined by a shy anti-social dentist, Mr. Dussell, who reluctantly shares Anne’s bedroom, since it is the only available space on the floor. Felipe Schrieberg plays his enigmatic character with commitment and just enough irritability to convince us  Anne’s nightmares are making his life more than extremely difficult.

The setting, in St.Columba’s by the Castle, in Edinburgh was claustrophobic, oppressive and hot. The space on the small studio theatre stage was crammed with appropriate, necessary old furniture. The production was atmospherically lit.  Both the designer and the director had to make very creative use of the available floor space. It was all mightily appropriate to the content of the play and allowed everyone to share a little  of the unbelievable discomfort experienced by those oppressed families hiding in Amsterdam sixty-eight years ago. We survive, safely distanced from the horror by time and the magic of theatre.

Kate Andrews was a fine friendly Miep and Jamie Gordon a respectful, humane Mr. Krugler, both of them helping build the tension between the outside world and the inner sanctum of the secret hiding place they maintain at great personal risk. The radio they have provided is also giving the hidden ones news of the war throughout. The sense of the reality of the risk taken by Miep and Mr. Krugler when they deliver food or news is strong, though very understated. The music which flits in and out of the production was always appropriate, and occasionally live, beautifully played and sung with pathos by Merlyn Driver.

Patch of Blue Theatre in association with Hartshorn-Hook Productions

Cast: Miep – Kate Andrews, Margot Frank – Louise Busnel, Musician – Merlyn Driver (5th-20th August) Mr Krugler – Jamie Gordon, Otto Frank – Jack Greenlees, Nazi Soldier- Rik Hart, Edith Frank – Louise Hemfrey, Peter Van Daan – Michael MacFarlane, Anne Frank – Caroline McCaffery, Hermann Van Daan – Will Moore, Petronella Van Daan – Emily Muldoon, Nazi soldier- John Nicoll, Mr Dussell – Felipe Schrieberg  Musicians – Ben Wallo and Rob Stephenson (21st-30th August)

Creative Team: Directors- Alex Howarth & Louise Sands, Backstage – Lucy Drysdale & Kiera Liebert, Publicity – Alex Howarth, Sound Engineering – Felipe Shrieberg, Lighting Design and Operator – Louise Sands, Set Construction – Alex Baldwin, All original music written by Merlyn Driver

The Company Patch of Blue Theatre, Director/Founder: Alex Howarth and Louise Sands, Musical Director: Rob Glenny, Producer: Meg Platt , Website Administrator: Christopher Smith

( c )Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2010

reviewed Friday 14th Aug. 10

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