‘Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances’

 

 

I have known this play for some time and did, in fact, appear in it many years ago when a drama student at the Webber Douglas School in London. At that time I found the story extremely moving, engaging and relevant all those years after the end of the Second World War. It is, I believe, even more relevant today with the conflicts and animosity between nations and religions.

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen where many of the characters featured here were imprisoned. The play is a timely reminder of what can happen when power rests in the hands of one uncontrollable fanatic and one uncontrollable party. It is a wonderful tale of love, compassion and endurance in extreme circumstances.

Although most people will know the story of Anne Frank and are aware of its conclusion, it is a story I believe well worth repeating which ultimately shows the strength of the human spirit and how deep is the instinct for survival no matter what.

 

Alan Jones: Director

 

Cast List

Cast In order of appearance:

Mr. Frank Tony Saxby

Miep Gies Alyssa Upton

Mrs. Van Daan Sarah Randall

Mr. Van Daan   Steve Foster

Peter Van Daan   Jake Hannam

Mrs. Frank Helga Kilroy

Margot Frank Lisa Gould

Anne Frank Molly Jenkins

Mr. Kraler David Wright

Mr. Dussel Dan Thomas 

 

Review: Your Harlow. March 2014

 

Date posted: 13-03-2015

Review: Harlow Theatre Company

THIS reviewer saw the production on the 70th anniversary of the death of Anne Frank in the death camps ov Belsen.

With that in mind, this production by the Harlow Theatre Company was the most wonderful, poignant tribute to the legacy of the teenage diarist whose work has come to embody the spirit of defiance against fascism. The HTC always have high production values. So, even the attention to detail in the programme assures the audience member that this will be a professional production.

The first five minutes are perhaps the most heart-wrecking as it starts in 1945 as Otto Frank returns to the place he called home. Tony Saxby walks across the stage as if the whole horror of the Holocaust are borne on his shoulders. It is a masterclass of physical expression, saying so much more than words. It made you wonder how Otto Frank went on to live for another 35 years (dying in 1980). Tony’s performance throughout the whole production is one of understated mastery as the father who acts as the fulcrum for the families plight.

But perhaps the greatest performance of the night was that of Molly Jenkins who played Anne. We don’t know where the HTC keep getting these actors from but time after time, we are treated with outstanding performances.

The key to Molly’s performance is her sense of life, her vivaciousness, her positivity. Just an ordinary girl and a talkative one (Miss Quack Quack). In some ways, and indulge us for a moment, we can understand why Justin Beiber, wrote in the visitor book at the Anne Frank museum, that she may have been a “Belieber”. Yes, she may well have been, That was the point, This was a teenage girl, so full of life, so positive and just a little bit charmingly annoying!.

Molly pitches the performance perfectly. Her face lights up the stage and, in a role, that could easily be mistimed, interacts with the cast so well.

And again, and credit to the director, Alan Jones, this is very much an ensemble piece, where the characters blend perfectly. Helga Kilroy puts in a strong solid performance that really peaks towards the end. Sarah Randall also pitches her “materialistic” Mrs Van Daan very well and her husband, the eternally grumpy Steve Foster, is a very good foil.

Young Jake Hannam also grows very well into his role as Peter. He really does seem so much older as the play progresses. Again, he has clearly learned to be part of an ensemble and give the feel of people living in the same room for years.

It was also going to be hard for Lisa Gould to outshine Molly as she plays her sister, Margot. But she doesn’t need to. There needs to be realism and contrast and she develops the quiet but considerate sister very well.

Well played to Alyssa Upton as Miep Gies, David Wright as Mr Kraler and Dan Thomas as Mr Dussel.

The should also be plaudits for the whole production team. It is a tight set and with ten actors on stage at any one time, they manage to evoke a sense of space but also highlight its limitations at the same time. Once again, well done to Alan and his team.

Once again, it is, let us not forget, such a tragic story. But HTC should be proud of themselves that they have lit a candle and keep the light burning brightly for the legacy of Anne Frank.