The Diary of Anne Frank: Big Atmosphere in a Small Building

 By Misha Tsirlin (Age 12)

As soon as I walked into the Gladstone theatre, I was sure of one thing: the atmosphere was there. The Diary of Anne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and directed by Tim Picotte,  has a clear post-WWII kind of atmosphere that plays one of the biggest roles in the production. The atmosphere made me constantly think and question myself. I found myself immersed in this image of the 1940s. Props like a simple box of marbles are not what they seem. Rather, these are the marbles that belonged to Anne Frank, and was something that kept her happy, as most childhood toys do, all until the Nazis came to her door. Costume pieces like a plain dress with a yellow star woven onto it speak volumes: a dress worn by a little girl of no more than four years old who was taken away, or rather forced to leave her home and her family because the yellow star indicated that she was Jewish. Actions that seem small often have the biggest consequences: a woman decides to help hide Anne Frank and her family in her attic and lives a proud one hundred years. All of this is greeting the audience in the front foyer and definitely sets the mood for the night

Next you wonder how the stage will look, as there are a lot of key moments in Anne Frank life that took place in different locations. Will they find a way to switch from setting to setting? Will they use one image that represents multiple things at once?As it turns out the entire show took place in one setting, an attic that also doubled as an office to be exact. This makes you question whether this small apartment in the attic could mean so much in Anne’s life and by the end of the play you understand that it was one of the most important places in Anne’s life.

Although you might think that this is a story of death and survival and horrific situations, it is actually the positive enthusiasm of the young girl that drives the story. Despite being on the run, living on a shortage of food and supplies for over two years, and most importantly being aware of the seriousness of the situation, it is amazing that Anne Frank still manages to be positive about everything and live as if nothing is going on. It is her optimism throughout this two year period in the small attic apartment that they play is focused on. The humour found in the script makes you realize by the end that the playwright is successful in making us think like Anne.

The play does an excellent job of bringing the story of Anne Frank to the audience, despite it being a story told many times. Using actual pictures of Anne Frank’s diary and a voiceover that reads the diary entries during scene changes reminds us that this actually happened one day and, despite all of Anne’s hardship, it is still possible to think positively; it is only our attitude towards a situation that changes how we think. Yet another question that we ask ourselves, maybe even without noticing: What if this happened to me? Would I think this way? And at the end of the play you are left with a pile of questions, but not questions about the play, but questions to ask yourself, because another successful job of The Phoenix Players with The Diary of Anne Frank , was to make the audience member see through the eyes of Anne Frank, and keep this perspective long after the play ends.