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The Diary of Anne Frank: a moving retelling

Christian Butler

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Grigory Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank is playing at the Fringe for the first time, thanks to a new production by About Turn Theatre. It’s an opera and monodrama, with Anne Frank singing soprano alone on the stage. Polly Ott and Vera Hiltbrunner have taken turns playing the role during the run. Featuring unrhymed lyrics adapted directly from the diary, the show was written in 1968 for a chamber orchestra. This production, however, is accompanied by a solo piano.

The music is dissonant throughout; it changes in tempo, but the harsh atonality never lets up. This neatly underlines Anne’s sense of dread, and foreshadows her fate. But the unrelenting nature of the music does sometimes undercut the warmth and humanity of her story. During lighter scenes, such as where Anne impersonates the van Pels (who hid alongside her family), she seems to sing against the music rather than with it.

The Diary of Anne Frank has an incredibly challenging score for its lead to sing, both in terms of the complexity of the music and the range of emotions therein. This production is impressive, instilling the intricate music with a certain spontaneity. The direction by Sebastian Ukena is also worthy of praise. The stage emphasises Anne’s loneliness, beginning with just a pedestal, before it is slowly filled with enlarged photographs of her former classmates.

This adaptation is a little narrow in tone, but with the help of an excellent lead performance it still does the story of Anne Frank justice.

★★★☆☆

Christian Butler is a writer based in London.

The Diary of Anne Frank is at The Space @ Venue 45 until 27 August.

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