Will Anne Frank Please Come to the Diary Room
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
8 housemates, 7 evictions, 6 sausages, 5 forks, 4 beers, 3 chickens, 2 pairs of tap shoes there's only one winner.
Elaine (Jill Peacock) and Chardonnay (Rachel Ogilvy) are two of the three remaining contestants in a fictional series of Big Brother, the third being 12-year-old Anne Frank. Her sister Margot, boyfriend Peter and enemy Dussel have all previously been evicted, and the never-present Anne (represented only by a cardigan) is now spending all her time in the Diary Room.
It's an inspired premise for a show, one which could have been used to great effect to highlight the lunacy of voluntary incarceration.
Instead, bitchy Elaine and dim Chardonnay regale us with vacuous statements worthy of real Big Brother contestants, shedding little light on their bizarre set-up and concentrating mainly on criticising celebrities, Anne and each other. The first, rather dull scene is repeated verbatim several times to illustrate the contestants' boredom, while much of the dialogue refers either to the eponymous journals or to Big Brother 4, meaning that only a small cross-section of the audience will understand every joke.
There are inventive moments - at times, the two influences overlap in a strikingly original way, while a dozen sharp, witty one liners are strewn throughout the play. However, though well played, Elaine and Chardonnay are eminently dislikeable, and the majority of their jokes are of a dubious
nature. 'Anne's only bloody crying again.' 'She's got so much acne, a blind person could read Sense and Sensibility off the left side of her face.'
It's not clear here whether we are meant to be laughing at the characters' stupidity or Anne herself, and frequently appears to be the latter.
The play ended with Anne being evicted and taken to Belsen. 'Is she going to be a celebrity? Why does she get to go there instead of us?' the housemates moaned as the audience shifted uncomfortably.
Would Anne Frank... had the potential to be an insightful, biting satire on reality TV and its irrelevance in the face of the enormity of world events. Ultimately, it merely proved that tragedy plus time does not always equal comedy.