Although advertised as a 'multimedia drama', this production is unashamedly low-tech. An office-style projection screen centre stage shows what seem to be PowerPoint slides and video, with the occasional appearance of a Windows cursor at moments of dramatic tension. It is not the special effects that are impressive, therefore, but the content - which makes this theatre experience very special indeed.
Eva Schloss and Ed Silverberg were Jewish teenagers during the Holocaust. Both took refuge in Holland before the German invasion, and both were subsequently forced into hiding, unwillingly playing a cat and mouse game with the Nazi occupiers. The unique selling point of this production is that it tells the story of these two young people, their families, and their mutual friend the diarist Anne Frank, with an alternating mixture of live performance (actors playing scenes from the protagonists' lives) and the videotaped historical testimony of Ed and Eva themselves, now in their eighties, describing the real life events as they unfolded. The theatrical effect is strange and powerful. Because they are there onscreen, Eva and Ed cannot be dismissed as romantic historical figures whose sufferings belong to a previous age. At the same time, the live performances give a strong impression of the emotional and physical experiences of their younger selves, evocatively bringing the reminiscences to life. The ultimate effect is one that could only be possible in a theatrical production. The combination of raw emotion and the affecting simplicity of the staging could not be achieved with the slick realism of cinematic film.
Although they risk being upstaged by the casual eloquence of the real Ed and Eva, the actors are universally strong. Lauren Presdee as Anne Frank captures the flamboyant personality of the girl, who is remembered by her friends for her flirtatiousness and talkative nature (nicknamed "Mrs Quack Quack", Eva tells us), while Alexandra Vevers (Eva) and Michael Gamarano (Ed) emphasise the ordinariness of these two people, unfortunate enough to be living in extraordinary times. Presdee and Vevers show the horrible transformation of the two young girls from their run of the mill lives in modern Europe to beaten down concentration camp inmates, experiencing unimaginable horrors. Vevers as Eva remembers being woken at night by a rat biting her frostbitten feet, having been attracted by the smell of the blood, while Presdee as Anne is driven to the point of insanity by the lice in her clothing.
After the show, Eva Schloss appeared in person for a question and answer session. Those who gave up hope in the concentration camps soon died, she said. Some of the people whose lives we had been watching died weeks, or even days, before the end of the war. Eva and Ed were fortunate enough to survive, and both went on to have children and grandchildren. Anne Frank, and millions like her, were not so lucky. Eva and director Nic Careem reminded us that such atrocities have continued, in various parts of the world, to this day.
|Event venues and times
||Garrick Theatre | Charring Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HH
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