The Diary of Anne Frank gives new performance centre something to write home about
An aura of youthful exuberance surrounds the Segal Centre for Performing Arts these days. Formerly the Saidye Bronfman Centre, the space now has a new name, a strong production of The Diary of Anne Frank, and facilities that are undergoing a complete facelift.
Opening their 2007-8 season with this classic coming-of-age tale feels perfectly in line with the centre’s new youthful outlook. In case someone didn’t read the book in grade 7, The Diary of Anne Frank is the adaptation of a 13-year-old Jewish girl’s account of her family’s attempts to hide from the Nazis during the occupation of Holland.
Natasha Greenblatt’s performance as the young heroine drives a stirring, well-balanced and suspenseful production. From fits of faux anger to the way she leans into every conversation, Greenblatt lays a strong foundation for her character to grow and change. Throughout the show, the audience will be moved by Anne’s transformation from child to young adult as she tries to comprehend both the simple joys and unspeakable evil she has experienced while in hiding.
The production’s minor problems stem from the inherent difficulties of reworking a journal for the stage. As inner monologue morphs into dialogue, its language becomes flowery, while its emotional peaks sometimes feel forced. Mr. Van Daan, for example, remains a flat character because, in his daughter’s eyes, he can do no wrong. Unfortunately, his complex web of fear, guilt and courage receives little sustained exploration.
Nevertheless, the season is off to a great start at the Segal Centre, and it should only get better as it unveils a new 200-seat theatre, The Studio, in December. The Cinema Space for independent filmmakers and the Academy of Performing Arts, offering programs in music, dance and theatre, will follow in the new year.
Managing director David Moss explains that behind the expansion lies a renewed emphasis on the next generation. While it will continue to court the general public, the Segal Centre hopes to increase programming for children and offer additional support for up-and-coming artists.
"It’s clear that the future of arts and culture, and the future of society in general, is something to be invested in now," he says. "The increased focus on youth will ensure that the arts remain a sustainable force within our society."
The Diary of Anne Frank
At the Segal Centre (5170 Côte-Ste-Catherine), until Nov. 4