Theatre: Souvenir d’Anne Frank
Friday 30 March 2012
York Theatre Royal
Moments of sweetness did not make a thorough transition into something more convincing and gripping.
The Ensemble wrote, produced and performed Souvenir d’Anne Frank with ambitious aims. The performance sought to relate the Japanese story of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings to the European experience of the Holocaust. The intention was to encourage the audience to recognise that the ordinary people on both sides of the political borders were victims. The message: acts of victimisation and cruelty must never be repeated. Unfortunately, the performance did not tap into this message in a particularly moving or powerful way. However, having not consulted Anne Frank’s diary since schooldays, the audience was treated to moments of tenderness and poignancy as the two actors brought selected extracts to life.
Souvenir d’Anne Frank sets out to explore the true story of Kenji Yamamuro’s relationship with the story of Anne Frank. In 1972, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, sent a Souvenir d’Anne Frank rose to Japan. Mr Yayamuro then made it his life’s work to plant these roses in every Japanese city, while encouraging schoolchildren to learn about war and victimisation by engaging with Anne’s story.
Entwining the stories of ordinary people affected by the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings with Anne and her family’s hiding in 1942-1944, is a novel idea. Azusa Ono plays a young Japanese girl who comes across a rose garden. When she learns of the event that brought the very first rose to Japan, she links it to the disaster that her country faced.
Elizabeth Mansfield plays Miep Gies, the Dutch lady who secretly protected Anne’s family and eight of their friends in her home. At the end of the war, Miep presented Anne’s diary to Otto Frank, the only surviving member of the family. In the play, Mansfield narrates her experience with Anne, interspersed with extracts of Anne’s diary. The Japanese girl takes centre stage to respond to this narration: acting it out and interrupting Miep to repeat parts of it in Japanese. While this gave light to certain moments of fear, dread and lust that come through in Anne’s story, the engagement with events in Japan was shallow as details of the Japanese experience during the war were not included. Sadly, moments of sweetness did not make a thorough transition into something more convincing and gripping.
If the storyline fell short of effectively conveying the message at its heart, the music fulfilled the task. Colin Decio’s Het Achterhuis Piano Trio tuned on stage and did not shy away from notes that squeaked with uncomfortable tension. The violin, cello and piano’s Piano trio for Anne Frank provided the haunting and engaging atmosphere that the performance as a whole was seeking to create.