The thing about And Then They Came For Me: Remembering The World of Anne Frank is its reliance on storytelling. In terms of plot, we know how it doesn’t end well: no surprises there. But there’s neither shock factor nor melodrama in a show that portrays loss for a member of the Hitler Youth (James Coupland) as well as for the Jewish community in Europe. For the teenager, Hitler’s suicide and its implications leave him bewildered – having been indoctrinated in the philosophies and beliefs of the Third Reich, now what?
This isn’t, of course, the only play about a dark period in modern European history – Way to Heaven premiered at the Royal Court in 2005, and Kindertransport went on a European tour earlier this year thanks to a joint production between Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. This play dates as far back as 1996, according to Eva Schloss MBE, 89 years young, who accepted an invitation to attend the performance I attended, and took questions from the audience immediately after it. Schloss, played in the show proper by Gemma Reynolds, is the stepdaughter of Otto (1889-1980), the father of diarist Anne Frank (1929-1945). Otto Frank’s first wife Edith (1900-1945) died of starvation in Auschwitz, and some years later, he married Elfriede Geiringer (1905-1998), whose first husband Erich (1901-1945) died in one of the Nazi ‘death marches’ that occurred shortly before the end of World War Two.
The use of multimedia from some years ago shows actual interview footage from both Eva Schloss and Helmuth Silberberg (1926-2015), referred to in Anne Frank’s diary by his then nickname ‘Hello’, such that when Anne (Bethan Kate-Tonkin) meets him, it’s with a ‘Hello Hello’ – the parting, though not actually said in the play, would have been ‘Goodbye Hello’. Ed, as he is (slightly confusingly) known in the play, is played by Leo Graham – the whole cast takes on several other characters between them, shifting between characters seemingly effortlessly.
The show is not completely devoid of humour, though some of the more philosophical and explorative elements of the famous diary are glossed over as the play instead concentrates – after a fairly brisk but nonetheless thorough overview of events leading up to the sudden end of the diary – on what happened after the Nazis had discovered where the Frank family and the other Jews staying with them were. Mercifully, much of the brutality and harsh living conditions in the concentration camps is described rather than dramatized. A selection of still photographs from the era underlines the increasingly desperate situation the characters find themselves in.
The single act production, on the whole, maintains a good pace throughout, and with just props and a black-box set, the scene changes are largely very smooth. At a time when sections of the Jewish community in Britain have raised concerns over what they believe, with some justification, to be a rise in anti-Semitism in certain quarters, this show could not be appropriate. This poignant and thought-provoking production is, perhaps inevitably, uncomfortable viewing at times. It is, however, worth seeing.
Review by Chris Omaweng
‘After the war, people said it would never happen again, and people didn’t want to talk about it – it was something that happened, let’s forget about it, now we live in a different life. What’s happening now in Bosnia and what’s happening in many other places…we’re still doing the same thing and again the world just looks on.’ –Eva Schloss
Part oral history, part dramatic action, part remembrance, this play brings to life what happened after The Diary of Anne Frank ends. The ensemble-driven play breaks new ground and has been acclaimed by audiences and critics in worldwide productions.
A unique experience… a multimedia play that combines videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors Eva Geiringer Schloss and Ed Silverberg (Helmuth ‘Hello’ Silberberg) with live actors recreating scenes from their lives as teenagers during WW2.
Ed was Anne’s first boyfriend. Eva was the same age and lived across from Anne in Amsterdam until she and her family were arrested by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. More than 1.25 million people were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau where Eva and her family were sent.
and then they came for me
writer: JAMES STILL / director: JUNE TRASK
9 & 10 Sept 2018