I had not read the book nor seen the film. It’s interesting how one’s mind imagines a scenario from snippets that you hear and it turns out that the picture you have formed is completely wrong. And so it was this evening.
If you were going to live in a confined space for the foreseeable future, say a flat small enough to fit on the stage at the Malvern Theatre Company’s converted church building, and you knew you would be sharing this with six others, I couldn’t have imagined anything worse than someone bringing a cat with them. And this in the days before stinky kitty litter.
But this was before we met Anne Frank. She was a right shocker. Okay, she kept a diary, died in a concentration camp, etc etc, but she was a pain – a teenage girl pain. She knew she was a pain but kept at it anyway. Talk, talk, talk. Come back Kitty, all is forgiven.
In my version of the story, Anne was the one who had the refugees living in her attic, bringing them food and secretly caring for them until she, too, was arrested and killed. I didn’t realise she was part of the punishment inflicted on others. A manic teenager with A.D.D cooped up in a secret flat above a factory.
It was Mr Frank who was the saintly one – arranging the accommodation, sharing the space with another family, keeping the band of lodgers as reasonably well-adjusted as possible in tragically difficult circumstances. Quite why Anne steals the historical limelight is unclear. He even gave her the diary in the first place, so she can’t claim credit for that idea either.
Perhaps it is hard to do in a stage production, but I didn’t get a palpable sense of the impending danger they were in. Sure, they had rules about stocking feet on the floor and not flushing the toilet (gross), but the few sirens and cars pulling up didn’t really convey the Nazi threat. Whenever there was a moment when discovery was a possibility, there was so much hysteria that in all likelihood they would have been heard downstairs.
No, this was a play about cabin fever with Anne.
But it was well acted and some bright young things performed well.