8:30pm Sunday, March 21 on TV One
Anne Frank started to write her diary on her 13th birthday in June 1942, just two weeks before she and her family were forced to go into hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland. Written from the cramped conditions of an annexe in her father’s spice warehouse, Anne’s poignant, feisty and often very funny account of her life over a two-year period has become one of the most widely read pieces of non-fiction.
Award-winning actress Tamsin Greig, who is well known for her roles in Love Soup and The Green Wing, plays Edith Frank, Anne’s troubled and often misunderstood mother in this adaptation of Sunday Theatre: The Diary Of Anne Frank (tonight at 8.30pm on TV ONE) – a rare privilege as the rights to the diary are seldom granted from the Anne Frank Fonds (Estate).
Speaking about the role, Greig says: “Being asked to play Edith Frank, Anne’s mother, was an enormously exciting challenge and responsibility. The script was utterly faithful to the spirit of Anne’s writing in her diary, but also captured the reality of difficult and strained parental relationships in extraordinary circumstances.”
While Greig believes anyone who has read Anne’s diary will be well aware of the tensions between mother and daughter, she says she wanted to delve deeper into Edith’s character: “In her diary, Anne mostly writes with dislike and frustration about her mother, so it was important for me to draw on other contemporary accounts in order to paint a fuller picture of Edith.
“Personal accounts from survivors of the death camps agreed that however troubled their relationship had been, in Auschwitz, Edith and her daughters were inseparable. I had the privilege of meeting Anne Frank’s only surviving cousin, Buddy Elias, who had known her as a child. He commented that Edith was ‘a very good mother’, despite Anne’s contradictory opinion, and this helped me enormously in finding a fuller perspective on this unhappy woman.”
Taking part in a series where everyone knows the outcome of the story is not always easy for actors, as Greig explains: “As actors, we needed to remind ourselves always that our characters did not know the end of the story. This adaptation only covers the weeks and months in the annex and ends on the day of their arrest. But these eight people lived as though this was a temporary horror from which they would at some point be freed.” Greig says it was an honour to be part of the telling of such a poignant and powerful story.
Starting at Anne’s 13th birthday in Amsterdam, as conditions for Jews worsen under Nazi occupation, The Diary Of Anne Frank sees the Frank family as they are forced to go into hiding. Along with the Franks, Otto (Iain Glen), Edith (Greig) and their two daughters Margot (Felicity Jones, Northanger Abbey) and Anne (Ellie Kendrick, Prime Suspect: The Final Act), are Otto’s work colleague, Mr Van Daan and his wife, Petronella and son Peter, and a single man, Mr Dussell, a dentist by trade and friend of Otto’s.
This ill-assorted group spend the next two years living together in cramped and increasingly harsh conditions, as food runs short, clothes wear out, and the threat to their lives keeps getting worse.