The war-time ordeal of Anne Frank and her family is world-renowned and her diary has now been translated into 67 different languages and sold over 31 million copies. A remarkable feat indeed for a journal that was written sporadically and under challenging circumstances. However, Anne’s story has in turn captured and inspired the global imagination.
Ensemble’s current touring production Souvenir d’Anne Frank is a treatment on the subject of peace and tolerance, rather than a more obvious strict re-telling of the story. Told from the perspective of a Japanese girl, we hear how Anne’s father Otto Frank sent the eponymous rose to every peace garden in Japan’s major cities as an act of reconciliation after the devastation of 1945.
Elizabeth Mansfield has created a visually and aurally moving work but the fragmented form in which she has opted to present it undermines the core stories of both the 25 months of incarceration in a “secret annex” in an Amsterdam warehouse, and the horrific aftermath of the dropping of the world’s first atomic bombs.
While the excerpts from Anne’s, her father’s, and Miep Gies’ recollections enthral as always, this is very much performance art, comprised of snippets, music, poems and visual imagery, rather than the dramatised relating of someone’s journey.
Underlined by a live chamber performance of a specially-commissioned classical work Het Uchterhuis the performances of Mansfield herself and Azusa Ono, while technically competent, fail to stir the emotions sufficiently; this is purely down to the pace of the piece.
Perhaps Holocaust Memorial Day, during which Souvenir d’Anne Frank first appeared, offered an emotive enough context to support it but, without that frame, the work seems insubstantial and non-cohesive – a little too extreme a culture clash to throw any new light of the events either in Amsterdam or Japan.