Prepare to have your heart pretty much explode with emotion when you see Shakespeare in Action’s stage rendition of the famous WW2 diary.
A stunning cast portrays the story of the spirited little lady on a mission to bring cheer and imagination to the annex, where she and seven others hide for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Through the sounds of the war torn streets outside and reluctant news brought to them by their protectors, life in the annex is an unthinkable labour. But Anne manages to bring cheer and imagination to the tiny world behind the bookcase.
Sascha Cole, the 28 year old lead actress, prepared for her role by walking through the halls of her high school in-between rehearsals. She tells the National Post, “I’ve really had a lot of fun figuring out what (being a preteen) means – remembering what I was like when I was 13 years old, and trying to put myself back there emotionally and physically.” She was drawn to this character because of Anne’s love of life and infectious sense of humour, and these traits make the show a joy to watch. Anne narrates the story with excerpts from her diary, describing life the way she chooses to live it, breathing fresh air through the cracks in her bedroom wall and keeping an eye on the blossoming tree outside her bedroom window.
Anne expects her companions to be as welcoming of optimism as she is, which causes problems in the confined space. The tactful adults consider Anne a nuisance and a hazard. As the months roll on though, Anne proves to be the courageous fighter of good spirits, the glue that keeps people together. She makes everyone Hanukah gifts by reworking her own possessions, dresses up and mocks the serious and teenage Peter Van Daan, and even finds a way to incorporate the universal spirit lifter – the dance party.
Cole’s Anne is relatable, even though her position may be unthinkable to us. She dreams of getting a novel published, and laments the obligation to become a housewife. Her protector brings her a pair of red pumps from town that Anne wears around the annex, and she hangs pictures of movie stars in her bedroom, which she shares with a middle aged dentist. She looks forward to the day she can ride her bike again and “laugh so hard it hurts.” Her dreamer mentality and amazing independence bring the name in the history book to life.
You don’t have to know the story of Anne Frank to fall in love with this play. Go see it now. Bring kleenex. The show runs March. 15 – 31 at the Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Ave. At Bloor, algreentheatre.ca)
~ Kait Fowlie