Anne and Zef

Ad De Bont, translation by Rina Vergano
The Salberg Studio, Salisbury Playhouse

Natasha Broomfield as Anne and Sam Swann as Zef Credit: Richard Davenport
Natasha Broomfield as Anne and Sam Swann as Zef Credit: Richard Davenport

I recall a production of Aristophanes Birds at the National some years ago which made less sense than this week’s intriguing interpretation in the Salberg Studio of Salisbury Playhouse of Dutch writer Ad de Bont’s Anne and Zef.

Translation is by Rina Vergano and this is the first English language production of the play, directed by Ben Kidd.

The Greek comedy at the Olivier was translated to acrobats on their swings—but for me this quite destroyed the spirit I had once seen beautifully played in the ancient original setting of Epidaurus

Anne and Zef, I must confess, is no walkover—unless perhaps, you are one of the young people for and about whom A Company of Angels, who co-produce this play with the Playhouse, stage all their work.

For much of the action, at least so far as the young, dead, characters are concerned, takes place off the floor—the pair delivering their dialogue while swinging from ropes or poised on convenient rails.

The idea, we are told, is of an aerial playground. And since the characters are both dead—Anne Frank murdered by Nazis in 1943 and the young Albanian Zef shot by gangsters carrying out a vendetta—the concept makes a fascinating kind of sense.

That said, I’m not at all convinced about the roles of Mother and Father, played here by Sophie Duval and Anthony Hunt. Perhaps they aren’t either?

However, both Natasha Broomfield (Anne) and Sam Swann (Zef) win my unstinting admiration for their excellent concentration in the face of (surely) some physical torture. Each requires the other to perform some form of entertainment in the personalities of their now deceased characters.

Ma and Pa pop in and out contributing, so far as I can tell, minor diversion—though they do certainly add to the suggestion of Anne Frank’s tragic attic and Zek’s bleak homeland setting, interestingly conveyed by Miriam Nabarro’s mixture of rope and scaffolding.

Somewhere in the text is the thought that the parents no longer know what it is like to be young. Which prompted me to wonder if they could know what it is like to be dead.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole

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