Review – The Voice of Anne Frank: funny and heartfelt

2013-07-05 13:47

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Anne Frank, an enduring historical figure who is, as a consequence, a regular feature of literature is given a fresh “voice” in The Voice of Anne Frank – a novel perspective on a unique teen experience, grounded in an increasingly distant war, for a new generation.

The show, which is on at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, is presented by Spitfire Theatre Company from the Czech Republic, and is a clever piece of dance theatre that is funny and heartfelt.

Dancer Mirenka Cechová’s body is a malleable thing – it becomes as much a storytelling device as the monologue she gives as she opens a window into the thoughts, dreams and soul of a 13-year-old girl who has to live in silence and in the shadows, yet finds a way to live out loud.

Cechová’s portrayal of Anne is punctuated by Nancy Snider’s cello. As the audience threads into the theatre, Bohac is a silhouette perched on a chair atop metal shelves dressed to mimic an attic or storage space.

As Cechová’s lithe form – keeping her back to the audience – begins mimicking the writing of her diary, Bohac’s string work acts as an exclamation mark, a mark of the discord of Anne’s reality.

Cechová then builds her performance, creating all the frustration, joy, fantasy and belligerence of all young girls feeling and forcing their way towards womanhood.

The blend of dance, theatre and music ensures that this performance is as hard to pin down as the exuberant spirit of Anne Frank. Forced to hide in cramped spaces with her family from June 12 1942 to August 1 1944, Cechová captures the claustrophobia of the situation, and the inevitability of Anne’s fate.

Yet the enduring message here – though the family was captured and all but one exterminated – is that voices that shout loudly enough about the human experience, in its most intimate and tortuous form, can’t be silenced.

A wonderful piece – and it is always a treat to see work from around the world. It offers a chance to see issues of identity and humanity from a new perspective.

» The Voice of Anne Frank is on at The Hangar today at 9.30pm, tomorrow at 10.30am and Sunday at 2pm.

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