Farewell to Wagner and Hello to Kindertransport

May 26, 2017 by J-Wire
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Annie Byron has been acting in Sydney since the early 1970s but this year will the first in which she will have performed in two productions with strong Jewish themes.She is currently starring in  Victor Gordon’s “You Will Not Play Wagner”, a play in which her character Holocaust survivor Esther Greenbaum matches her principles against of those of Ya’akov a young conductor . The play is set in Tel Aviv. Esther is the patron of an international competition for conductors in which Ya’akov has reached the finals. He has chosen a piece by Wagner, the favourite composer for Hitler. Esther comes into conflict with Ya’akov over his choice.

Annie Byron

The play is presented by Shalom and Moira Blumenthal Productions.

With a month off apart from her acting role in the long-running TV series “Home and Away”, Annie will start rehearsals in August for “Kindertransport”, a play by Diane Samuels which examines the life of a Jewish child who is rescued from the Nazi regime and is settled in a new foster home in Manchester cared by her non-Jewish mother Lil,,,played by Annie.

The play is being by Darlinghurst Theatre Company at The Eternity Playhouse…the same theatre as “You Will Not Play Wagner”.

J-Wire spoke to Annie Byron.

JW: When did you start acting career?

AB: I went to university in 1971 where I did an honors degree in drama and trained at NIDA from 1975-1977. I have been performing since then. But the first Jewish play I acted in was in high school in 1970 in the NSW town Inverell…Diary of Anne Frank. I played Anne Frank’s sister Margo…47 years ago.

JW: “You Will Not Wagner” is your third Jewish play directed by Moira Blumenthal. Even though acting, did you identify with Esther’s problem yourself?

AB: I was vaguely aware of the problem but it wasn’t something I spent time thinking about it…but I was aware of the significance of Wagner to Hitler…and I was aware of the Israeli attitude to the composer.

JW: Did you think the playwright’s argument showing the young conductor keen to Wagner and the patron opposing him is open-ended?

AB: I think in the end Esther’s emotional plea wins out but I think Ya’akov’s argument was worthwhile. Even as Esther, I could hear value in it but the emotional connection for many of the people who suffered through the Holocaust is understandable…well if that’s how those people carry this pain there is no answer to it. But I have read about a Holocaust survivor in Israel who wanted her son to perform Wagner in Israel because she felt, as Ya’akov says in the play, that would be the ultimate victory. I find both the arguments in the play convincing.

JW: And now you are going perform in another play with a strong Jewish theme. Do you play a Jewish character?

AB: No…I  play Lil, the Manchester woman who adopts a little Jewish girl.

JW: How does it feel to play in two plays consecutively with a strong Holocaust theme?

AB: I look at it as going from one story to another. They are both stories that all people can relate to.

JW: What is happens in “Kindertransport”?

AB: I play the grandmother. The little girl becomes a mother and her child as a young adult meets Helga her mother and learns her mother’s story and how she came from Germany.

JW: Was there a major hiatus between your Jewish part in Anne Frank in school and your next role as a Jewish character?

AB: The next was a”23 Blooms on my Great-Grandmother’s Rose Bush”…The blooms were her great-grandchildren and again had a Holocaust theme. This was about 20 years ago. I played the great-grandmother who had been in the Holocaust.

JW: You seem to have predilection to play for older people. Why?

AB: Even when I was at NIDA I was always cast as the grandmother. I was 45 when I first played a role where the character was my age. Even in “Wagner”, Esther was 15 years older than me. Hard work with the makeup.

JW: You have appeared in so many Jewish plays, you are almost converted. What do you think?

AB: I grew up in Inverell but went to Sydney to go to university and I lived with a Jewish family. So for a while, I have lived in the bosom of a Jewish household. I loved Friday nights.


“You Will Not Play Wagner”   at the Eternity Playhouse until May 28


“Kindersport”  will open in August at the same theatre




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