Palaver Festival: The Diary of Anne Frank

Yesterday was a day of festivities, as I immersed myself in not one, but two Manchester-based celebrations. The Manchester Histories Festival  was great, and led me to attend a play in the evening at the Contact Theatre (you know, the one that looks like an industrial plant but is actually really cool inside). That play was The Diary Of Anne Frank, and it was put on by the German Society at the University of Manchester. Here’s how I got on…

Faced with the challenge of performing a piece so historically significant and somewhat emotionally taboo as Anne Frank – and in a language nowhere near as familiar as my mother tongue- I’d probably run with fear. That said, as an audience member at the Contact Theatre tonight, my experience was hardly life changing. And when asked if I wouldn’t mind putting a sticker on a chart to show my level of enjoyment, I had no choice but to stray into the “satisfactory” zone. In light of that, I may be being slightly critical, as my “satisfactory” was one of just two; it seems the rest of the audience branded it “excellent.” I suppose my experience was somewhat tainted by Anne’s seemingly naive and overly-cheerful interpretation. However, given how difficult a play it is to handle, and that it was acted entirely in German, it was an interesting adaption to watch. And whilst I whole-heartedly encourage the promotion of foreign plays and festivals such as Palaver, this play was not one that gripped at my heart strings and left me in tears as the original diary did. With words so moving, any attempt to adapt them seems ever so slightly feeble. I suppose the problem stemmed from the fact that- despite brilliant costumes and a well-designed set – the actors were not actors. They were German university students passionate about their subject – and it showed. The focus dragged not to the words that have endeared millions to the story of Anne Frank, but to the pronunciation of the German- and how oddly it mismatched the subtitles. All in all, the effort was a bold one; it just didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations.

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