May 11, 2021

Anne Frank is alive and well

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“The Diary of Anne Frank” will entertain, make you laugh, make you cry and is an experience you will remember forever.

When I walked into the Prospect Playhouse last Tuesday I was shocked at what I first saw.

Instead of the normal seating in tiered rows I saw a bare auditorium littered with cardboard boxes thrown all over the place as if our Refuse Garbage Collectors had just walked off the job.

Eventually I found the seats – they were up on the stage and laid out like a slightly incomplete version of “a theatre in the round”.

I was puzzled at first, because it hit you straight in the jaw. I believe that is exactly what the Director and Producer of the Cayman Drama Society’s latest production wanted.

If you haven’t actually read Anne Frank’s Diary, nor seen any of the versions of the play, or viewed the numerous film and television adaptations, you probably know it is a diary written by a teenage girl forced into hiding with her family, friends and strangers in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

The CDS crew wanted you to feel something the eight persons felt, locked up together in a tiny part of a warehouse. They succeeded because we felt like flies on a wall watching and listening to the thoughts and feelings described to us by a teenage girl as she lived for over two years in this almost claustrophobic environment.

She writes down every detailed thought, feeling and experience. Anne occasionally dares to dream of ‘after the war’. And also, through writing she develops her ideas of the world, of faith and of the natural world she misses so much. We hear and see every word she writes acted out by one of the most accomplished cast I have ever seen perform at The Prospect Playhouse.

I was sitting in the front row and I was up so close to the cast at times I could touch them. When Anne leaves her diary on the floor and the actors at times seemed to have difficulty in stepping over it, I wanted to bend down and pick it up. I’m glad I didn’t. It was supposed to be lying there.

At one time someone in the audience shouted out something to one of the actors and was rightly scolded by the person sitting next to her.. But, I can sympathise. All of us viewing the drama acted out before us seemed to be part of it. We weren’t behind the fourth wall. We were it!

There is almost a regimental feel to the days these eight Jews have to endure. Although not all days have the exact same pattern, there is a rhythm to life in the Secret Annex in a warehouse they are hiding in. They all have their time they can go to the bathroom. For half the day they mustn’t make a sound. All the windows are blacked out. A buzzer sounds to let them know when their kind benefactors, the Dutch couple Mr and Mrs Van Daan are coming in to make an announcement and/or bring in food and drink.

It is nearly always bad news, except near the end of the play. And that good news heralds in the ghastly climax. So near to freedom and then snatched away to death for all except one. Anne’s father, who finds her Diary.

I am not going to dwell on too long to the performances. There is no weak link. When you see someone of the great acting calibre as Dominic Wheaton playing practically a non-speaking walk on part as a Nazi, that tells you the quality of the cast the Director, Kirsty Halliiday, has assembled.

When I asked Kirsty why she wanted to stage this play she said it was the right time. She mentioned the rising tide of fascism that was so frightening.

“People need to humanise and not de-humanise,” she said. She also praised the small Jewish community here for their behind the scenes help in setting the accuracy of the way the actors portrayed their characters. She was not sure if any of them had booked tickets to see the play as it was a very disturbing period of their history.

I asked her if she was worried about the audience reaction to a play with deep religious overtones and she said she was. She hoped everyone would be moved by the events in some way, even if they didn’t cry. If someone went away feeling nothing, then she and her actors had not done their job.

She doesn’t have to worry about that.

It was her idea to have live music inserted into the play and Chuck and Barrie were on hand to execute this. Kirsty’s reason, “I wanted the audience to have permission to feel something other than pain.”

“Anne’s story”, she added, “is about love, young love, longing and maturing.”

In speaking to two of the actors, Jasmine Lane who plays Anne, and Adam Roberts who plays Otto – Anne’s father, they both told me how over the rehearsal time they changed in how their characterization of their parts changed. They grew into their parts and Anne said she actually did grow older and more mature. She has never ever performed anything as big as this character before. She actually does the part so well I am shocked. She carries the play and no matter how good everyone else was it would have fallen apart.

Having said that, Adam’s role in trying to keep his family together, obviously helped Jasmine. He is a very accomplished and experienced actor.

It was noticeable how every actor stayed in their parts the whole time, even when not speaking or when the focus of attention switched to another part of the stage.

Even, during the interval, the actors appeared and were in character the whole time.

I could go on forever saying how much I enjoyed the experience, even the sad and horrifying ones. The radio messages barking out their hate, together with the calm BBC newsreader ones, and as aforementioned, the music that accompanied some of the dialogue, all added to the drama.

I understand all performances are sold out. That is a shame. This is theatre at its royal best.

Well done CDS.

I almost forgot to applaud the set. Outstanding. I am trying to find something I didn’t like. I did hate the three Nazis, but they wanted me to hate them. I told Dominic afterwards he must play Bugs Bunny next to redeem himself.

Anne Frank died in the Nazi concentration camp of illness. At the Prospect Playhouse Anne Frank is alive and well.

CAST

Anne Frank Jasmine Lane

Margot Frank Zoe Wall

Otto Frank Adam Roberts

Edith Frank Agata Kalicki

Miep Gies Sandra Robinson

Peter Van Daan Liam Oko

Mr Kraler Mike Bishop

Mrs Van Daan Laura McCauley

Mr Van Daan Neil Hamaty

Mr Dussel Stephen Wise

Directed by Kirsty Halliday and Produced by Sheree Ebanks

Music composed by Chuck and Barrie Quappe.

Performed by Chuck Quappe, Barrie Quappe and Nayil Arana.

Set Design & Construction by Paul DeFreitas

Performances: September 6 – 9, 13 – 16.

CDS website: www.cds.ky

See also iNews Cayman story published September 6 2018 “Anne’s Diary is Dramatic!” at: http://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/ann-franks-diary-is-dramatic/

And today’s Editorial: “Anne Frank’s Diary is a wake up call”.

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