Volume 94, Issue 4

Friday, June 9, 2000


Stratford Festival opens a brilliant season
Gross triumphs as Hamlet

Anne Frank's diary lives on

Stratford Rundown

TED moves into T.O.

Y2K summer music showcase

Weekend debut sets off the Sirens

Anne Frank's diary lives on

Photo by Cylla vonTiedemann

A FAMILY TORN APART.The Diary of Anne Frank brings to life the struggles and sorrows encountered by the Frank family during the Second World War.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

"Who would be interested in the diary of a 13 year old girl?"

A reasonable question indeed, unless of course your name is Anne Frank.

First published in 1947, The Diary of Anne Frank has been translated into approximately 60 languages, becoming an Academy Award winning film and has undergone numerous stage adaptations. The most recent of these is by Wendy Kesselman.

The story of Anne Frank's life is set against the backdrop of World War II. To escape Nazi persecution, Anne's family fled Germany for the Netherlands, where they hid inside a cramped annex above an Amsterdam warehouse. For 25 months, the Franks, who were joined by another family and a single man, survived on small rations of food and struggled to maintain their optimism in an otherwise bleak situation.

Within two months before the historic 1944 D-Day landings, the Franks were discovered in the annex during a raid by Nazi Officers. All but Anne's father, Otto Frank, died in concentration camps shortly before the camps were liberated by British and American forces in 1945.

After his release, Otto Frank returned to the Netherlands to learn about his family's sad fate. He was presented with a small, red and white plaid book, containing his young daughter's revelatory writing. Half a century later, Anne Frank's diary still resonates.

As for the production itself, Stratford's Avon Theatre was brilliantly transformed into the stuffy annex where the story unfolded. The drab colours and minimal use of props gave the set an eerie, unfriendly feeling. The cast remains in the same costumes throughout, reminding the audience that they were unable to bring much with them into hiding.

To their credit, the actors were able to shift with incredible ease from lighthearted moments to serious scenes. They capture the feelings of stress, despair and anxiety, that one would expect from people in this situation, while simultaneously capturing the laughter, joy and optimism so essential to Anne Frank's story.

Despite the strong performances, there were a number of moments when actors spoke with their backs to the audience. This is a minor technical flaw, making it very difficult to decipher what the actor is saying.

Seventeen year-old Maggie Blake's portrayal of Anne Frank is enthusiastic and passionate, while Adrienne Gould's portrayal of Anne's morose sister Margot, is somewhat more refined and distant. The two interact very well on stage, sharing some of the play's most touching moments.

As Mrs. van Daan, one of the other people in hiding, Lally Cadeau is magnificent. She blends deft comic relief with great sadness, creating a character with whom the audience can both laugh and cry.

In his Stratford Festival debut, George A. Sperdakos delivered an engrossing performance as Otto Frank. The final monologue, in which he relays the fate of his wife and daughters, left the audience in chills.

The Diary of Anne Frank is clearly a piece of history that remains incredibly relevant today. Stratford has mounted an excellent show, which not only displays considerable talent, but also celebrates the life and death of the young Anne Frank.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000