Progressive Players actor Jane Bowron talks about her preparations to play the title role in The Diary of Anne Frank, our production for March 2023.
My first action after being cast as Anne was to hunt for the copy of her diary that I’d had since school. As I started to read the pages the weight of responsibility hit me. “You’re playing someone of such cultural and historical significance… eek!” It’s also a production the Progressive Players had begun to work on just before the Covid 19 pandemic hit. Several of our regular audience members were disappointed that we couldn’t stage this particular production, and have been so pleased to see it back on our schedule. No pressure then!
I chose to put this pressure to one side initially and just absorb the words of a teenage girl confiding in her diary. Anne wrote with candour, intelligence and humour about issues that are still relatable today. Annoying parents, sibling rivalry, being trapped in the house, falling in love… unfortunately with the backdrop of terrible persecution. I found this exploration of her diary gave our initial rehearsals a strong start. The dynamics between the Frank family in particular I wanted to be certain of, as they are integral to Anne’s development in the play.
Lisa (who plays Anne’s older sister Margot) is a hairdresser, and cut six inches off my hair to make it more authentic – a real sisterly bonding experience! In the production there is a scene in which Margot is helping Anne get ready, and Lisa transforming my hair felt like an extension of this.
Seeing the expertly crafted stage set for the first time brought my mind back to the weight of responsibility. Within such a cramped living space the Holocaust’s best-known and most widely read document was created. It’s a credit to our devoted set building and props teams who have worked so hard to replicate the space.
I have found it a struggle emotionally at times, especially when the diary entries had to be recorded. Reading Anne’s longing to get out into the world and live her life on her own terms really hits hard. The fact she states that she wants to go on living after her death has given me the impetus to do her justice, as best I can.