This is Anne Frank’s story, told through her diaries. It makes for tough reading, or more to the point tough viewing, in the current New Theatre production of the 1955 stage adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
Sam Thomas’ eloquent revival brings her painful and sad story to life. Tragically, Anne lived her last few years with her family in hiding, never knowing if, in the next moment, they will be discovered and transferred to a death camp.
This was one of those kind of productions that made one stay present. We witness how much of her youth and normal life was taken away from her and how painful this was. We see much she loved the nine other people that she shared her father’s attic with, and how well she ‘drew’ these characters – a gifted writer in the making …
The cast of ten all work together well, working in their contributions like a good orchestra well conducted by Thomas.
Justina Ward gave a flawless, touching performance as the high spirited, very sensitive and articulate Anne. At the end when she comes on stage and says directly to the audience that she believes in the fundamental good nature of human nature it breaks one’s heart.
James Bean plays her devoted father Otto who gave her the diary as a 13th birthday present. If only he knew what a portentous, precious gift that this journal would become. Anna had a closer relationship with her father than with her tense, over protective mother, played by Jodine Muir.
Geoff Sirmai plays Otto’s business partner, Mr Van Daan, who Otto kindly brought into the attic along with his wife, played by Caroline Levien and their teenage son Peter, played by David Wiernik.
Geoff and Caroline have a big scene together, which they do well, when he decides to become hard hearted and grab his wife’s mink coat for it to be sold in the markets because they are so hard up.
Justina Ward and David Wiernik have an awkward, touching, even at times gently humorous scene together when Anne decides it is time she felt what it was like to kiss a boy.
Ward also has some good exchanges with Martin Portus who plays Mr Dussell, the family dentist who joins them in hiding. She has to share close living quarters with him…they are two very different personalities and get on each other’s nerves. There is plenty of by-play between them, including Anna putting a wet mop on Dussell’s bed! Portus plays the neurotic, highly strung elderly man with a typical German temperament very well.
Martin Searles and Rowena McNicol play Mr Kraler and Miep Gies, two of Otto’s big hearted work colleagues who live ‘outside’ and bring in food and provisions for them and keep them in touch with what’s happening.
Jessie Miles plays Anne’s more reserved, centered sister, Margot.
Allan Walpole’s cluttered set with mattresses strewn everywhere effectively portrayed the distressing, unsettled nature of these living arrangements. James Ackland’s soundscape with some original music by Leonie Cohen underscored the action well. There were some stand-out moments in Heidi Brosnan’s lighting design. Famke Visser’s costumes were all in keeping with the era.
Anne Frank’s story is one of those for all time stories. Each new generation needs to see see this story, know that people lived with these kind of circumstances, and do their best to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
Recommended, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK is playing the New Theatre, 542 King Street Newtown until the 11th July.