With only a few weeks left until the Christmas break, there are three shows still to enjoy in Nottingham New Theatre’s autumn season. Next up is well known, The Diary of Anne Frank. Impact speaks to producer Holly Gatfield, and director, Ricki Crook, about their show:
What is The Diary of Anne Frank about?
HG: Anne Frank’s is an extremely well known story; her family were forced into hiding with another family in 1942, and remained in an annex above Otto Frank’s office for two years before being discovered by the Nazis and taken to various concentration camps. Anne’s voice is one amongst many, but her beautiful writing offers a way to remember and commemorate those persecuted during one of the darkest periods in our history.
The Diary of Anne Frank is well known – how loyal is the play to the original publication?
HG: The original publication of Anne’s diary was edited by her father Otto Frank, and despite the removal of certain personal sections, Anne’s voice (painfully truthful yet ever-optimistic) remains at the heart of her diary. Hackett and Goodrich’s adaptation does a similar thing. They take a degree of creative licence but keep the essence of Anne’s voice at the forefront of the script through the inclusion of a series of monologues which break up the scenes and contain the most thought-provoking, personal and resonant of Anne’s words. The cast have been incredible at sensitively developing their characters and in so doing have truly done justice to the real people at the heart of each.
RC: Goodrich and Hackett have no doubt dramatized the diary and characters have perhaps slightly larger personalities than they would’ve had, but they have definitely still maintained the heart and innocence that comes across in Anne’s writing. The difficult thing about this production was always going to be trying to give these characters a sense of respect for the real people they represent. A lot of our rehearsal time, especially early on, was spent talking about and getting to know these people so that we could do them justice on the stage.
The effect of the Nazi regime is still prevalent today. How have the cast handled having to portray a moment of history?
HG: It would have been impossible to get the cast into the exact mindset of these people; how could any student possibly imagine the claustrophobia that they experienced whilst hiding in an annex for 2 years, without once venturing outside? The horrors they must have dreamt up about what could potentially happen to them if discovered, and the eternal waiting and listening for an unexpected sound which may mean the end, are impossible to imagine. But it is possible to treat this subject with sensitivity. The energy with which our cast tackled this play enabled them to get as close as possible to the emotions of the real people at the heart of their characters. They have all done an incredible job of doing justice to the people they are representing and what we once considered would be perhaps the biggest challenge of this process has been a lot easier because of the sheer talent and incredible energy of our cast.
RC: I think more than anything what the Nazi regime did was make it clear that humanity is capable of great evil. I think it was a huge shock to the rest of the world when they found out what their fellow human-beings were doing to people; many soldiers commented on their absolute shock and horror upon liberating the concentration camps. I think that is how it is relevant today, as a reminder, to never let that happen again. What you see on stage, the people who are in front of you, we hope will come across as real people, people who were forced to take extreme measures to protect themselves and their families.
Being the second classical play of the season, what sets this play apart?
RC: It’s an important story, simple as that. One of my cast members, Jake McGrath – who plays Otto Frank – put it best: “Anne’s story is one everyone knows but no one knows enough about”. And I think that sums it up. It’s vital that we remember her story so it is not lost in history, lest we make the same mistakes again; something which is important when we consider the current refugee crisis across Europe. So not only is it important in the sense of being a great piece of writing and art, but the lessons and truths held within the script are infinitely important to us as human beings.
There is a newly adapted version by Wendy Kesselman – why did you decide to stick with the original adaptation by Goodrich and Hackett?
HG: From the start of the process we knew Anne’s was a story to aid the remembrance of the persecuted groups in WWII, but we also felt it was deeply relevant considering the recent migrant crisis in Europe, which is being labelled the largest movement of people since WWII, by the media. Goodrich and Hackett’s adaptation is far broader, focusing less of the specificity of the Franks as a Jewish family, like Kesselman’s adaptation does, and more on them as a human family. The innocence of the characters’ is made blindingly evident by the unfathomable emotional limits they are pushed to.
RC: We wanted everyone to be able to try and relate to them in some sense and thought that maybe pushing the fact that they were Jewish too hard would alienate some people. The fact is, we also can’t let that happen to any other group, whether they be Muslim, Jewish or of any religion. We are now closer than ever to a situation like this again with the rise of extremist parties across Europe, mixed with xenophobia which is rooted in events such as the Paris bombings. Let Anne’s incredible and devastating story be a warning about what humanity can do in times of fear and desperation.
Sum up you production in three words…
HG: Beautifully & tragically truthful
RC: Insightful, haunting and beautiful
The ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ is running at Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 28th November, for more information see here.