The Diary of Anne Frank, King's Theatre, Review

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Company
The Touring Consortium
Production
Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett (writers), Jonathan Church (director)

Of all the testimonies to spring from Nazi Europe, the Diary of Anne Frank will continue to stand as one of the most enduringly effective in bringing home the impact of that brief period’s most prevalent politics upon the members of society it socially excluded.

This play dramatizes the experiences she so famously recorded. Despite all this, it is not a depressing play. The tale is simple, and the impact clear and human. Even though we know the sickening fate of the writer and her family, even though we know those few years when Nazism rode high is a vastly depressing subject, hardly edifying about ourselves as human beings, nevertheless the effect is to instil recognition rather than morbidity. In other words, we aren’t oppressed with its tragedy; rather we are alerted by it.

This is probably because the story of the Frank and van Daam families in hiding shows us fallible people in a domestic situation severely tested, who display a whole spectrum of emotions - courage, fear, trust, weakness, innocence, disgust, anger, selfishness, hope, joy. The all too ordinary domestic relationships present us with the kinds of experience we can instantly identify in our own family situations, though in very different circumstances. The identification, therefore, does not work to invite voyeurism for monstrosity, as is more usually (and depressingly) the case in most writing about the Hitler years. Instead we are woken into a far more direct recognition of how such an experience might impact in actuality on our own selves.

The writing allows the tale to speak for itself. But the effect is an intensely moral one. Since the main drama for the characters hinges upon their utter dependency upon little more than the selfless good will of others who act at immense risk to their own lives; and since it also shows us the cracks that show when vital life-resources become almost impossibly scant, watching the play leaves us with the implicit open question: how would we ourselves really behave in similar circumstances? Friends or foes? Guzzlers or sharers? As fuel protests have shown, our supermarket civilisation skates on rather thin ice. Together with increasing inflections of intolerance creeping back into society, and a hideously cynical and complacent media, what is there to prevent such things eventually happening again?

Incidentally, the production and the performances were excellent.

Till 4th Nov