At the end of the show – be it an opera, concert, or play – someone in the audience leaps up, waves a hand in the air, or throws a bouquet of roses at the stage, carried away with enthusiasm for the brilliant performance just finished. You may have seen such moments in movies, or perhaps you’ve had one yourself.
I had a “bravo” moment last night. I was sitting in the Metro Theatre, in downtown Victoria, and was simply possessed with an involuntary momentum that lifted me to my feet, applauding the efforts of our students who had just finished performing The Diary of Anne Frank. The ending is not a happy one, but the experience of the play was nonetheless exhilarating – such are the paradoxes of art. Even this morning, in the sober, sunny and somewhat frosty light of a new November morning, I still feel that same enthusiasm, so I know my reaction was for real.
As in every play there are key roles, but I venture to observe that this production has no real star: everyone played his or her part excellently. The burden of the action is carried by Anne and her father, Otto Frank; Ellen Law is a very authentic thirteen-year-old Anne, bursting with personality, and Doug Peerless, her father, is wise, calm and intense. You would never guess they are the same age in real life. The collection of friends and acquaintances sequestered with them in the secret attic to avoid incarceration by the Nazis is a very human collection, full of both goodness and frailty. Anne’s sister, Margot (Jordan Kerr) suffers good-naturedly along with her more fretful mother (Cindy Kim). I can’t go through the whole cast, but I should – they were all superb. They were always in character, none of them daydreamed while waiting for their next lines, so that whatever action was at centre stage had a living and human background. One expects this texture in professional productions.
When I used to be an English teacher, I taught this play about ten times. I showed various versions to my students, and I almost shock myself to say that I don’t remember a better production. If you have a chance, do see it – tell your friends, tell people on the street. It wouldn’t be fair to keep this bravo moment to myself.