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The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank

29 Nov - 6 Dec 2014

Chris Weber-Brown

Adapted by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett.

This remarkable play is an adaptation of Anne's diary which she kept whilst in hiding with her family in an attic for 2 years during the Nazi occupation of Holland.


Performances

Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm

Synopsis

As Nazism grew in Germany and decrees encouraged attacks on Jewish individuals and Businesses, Otto Frank moved his family to Amsterdam. Following the invasion of Holland, the family went into hiding in July 1942 in an attic above Otto's business premises where they remained for 2 years until their discovery and capture. Otto was the only survivor of the War and in due course he was persuaded to translate his daughter's diary which was then published in 1947. Subsequently this stage adaptation was created and first performed in 1955.

Director's Notes

After Anne’s death was confirmed at the end of the War her diary was given to her father Otto who was persuaded eventually to publish it. In June 1947 the first Dutch edition was issued and its success was the forerunner to an English translation which in turn led to this theatrical dramatisation.

Eight people spent just over two years hiding in an annexe which comprised a few small cramped rooms and the play examines all those human characteristics which you would expect to find in such a situation. There is bitterness, greed and resentment but also love, tolerance and even humour.

As I write these notes Lala Redin, who was to have played Margot, has been forced to withdraw from the cast through illness and we wish her a most speedy recovery. We have now been rehearsing or five weeks and we have another five left to become accustomed to both the set and the enormous number of props which will be required.

In my talented cast I am lucky enough to have five newcomers to this theatre, Seer Dindial, Maddy Barnes, Steve Mallen, Julian Message and Jonny Amies. Sharran Rigby-Smith makes a welcome return after a long absence whilst Adrian Bowd appeared last season in Time of My Life. The cast is completed by a trio who appeared in the recent production of Richard III: Hannah Wilson, Ella Dorman-Gajic and Chris Parke.

We all know there is no happy ending but I hope and believe that you will find the production uplifting.

Chris Weber Brown

Review

Anne Frank wrote her diary as a young teenager when she, her family and her father’s acquaintances were forced into hiding by German Nazis in Amsterdam. Since its publication by her father in 1947, after Anne’s death in Belsen, it has been translated into more than 60 languages, sold more than 25 million copies and used as an educative and inspirational tool.

In 1955 this dramatisation of Anne’s original diary by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett opened on Broadway. Subsequently, it played simultaneously in seven German cities and opened in Amsterdam in 1956 with Dutch royalty present. At its first outing it received a Tony Award, A Pullitzer Prize and The New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Then the 1998 revival in USA received a Tony Award for Best Revival in an adaptation by Wendy Kesselman. Since then this much loved play has been performed numerous times in amateur and professional theatres.

For this production Chris Weber Brown chose a talented cast of seasoned LLT actors and new faces.

The production opened on an excellent multi-level set, designed by Geoff Parker, which perfectly captured the dreary, claustrophobic and cramped conditions that the eight characters were forced to live in for two years. The situation in which the Frank and Van Daan families and the stranger Mr Dussel find themselves in is pretty intolerable and provides an excellent premise for drama. Hidden in an attic above a shop and so as not to be found by the Nazis, 5 adults and 3 teenagers are forced to remain silent during the day time, even unable to use the toilet or run water. As if this weren't bad enough they are entirely reliant on occasional visitors Miep Gies and Mr Kraler for meagre, dwindling food rations and information from the outside world.

Watching how each character copes in this highly stressful situation, how the relationships ebb and flow and how a semblance of dignity and harmony is maintained provides engrossing viewing and this cast did full justice to their roles in the drama.

Chris Parke and Hannah Wilson as Mr and Mrs Frank poignantly and sensitively portrayed the heads of the household struggling to control their own fears and frustrations in order to ensure their children’s emotional and practical wellbeing. Their daughters, the idealistic Anne thirsty for life and experience and the quiet, studious Margot were convincingly and sensitively played by Ellla Dorman-Gajic and Maddy Barnes. Steve Mallen and Sharran Rigby Smith as Mr and Mrs Van Daan whose tense relationship and personal frustrations quickly rose to the surface confidently provided the perfect foil to the calm and dignified Franks. Jonny Amies as the sensitive Peter Van Daan was funny and moving as he struggled with being in such close proximity to people while dealing with his burgeoning sexuality and his attraction to fellow adolescent Anne.

In a deftly placed central scene the playing out of the teenage romance in this crucible works on two levels. First we are treated to the humour and poignancy of first love and secondly it serves as a symbol of the human spirit flourishing in a climate of evil and fear. Adrian Bowd as Mr Dussel, the elderly and irritatingly fastidious dentist finding himself having to live cheek by jowl with strangers was wonderful. Julian Message as Mr Kraler, the sympathetic local businessman who nevertheless makes opportunities out of the war, was perfectly bureaucratic and unctuous. Seer Dindial played Miep Gies with warmth and sensitivity.

I don’t think there could have been many people in the audience who didn’t know the story of Anne Frank and the tragic fate met by her, and her family and friends. Knowing the ending doesn’t diminish this powerful, enthralling and cleverly crafted play that remains fresh and entirely relevant. With Chris Weber Brown at the helm of his talented LLT cast it was a memorable night at the theatre.

As Anne Frank noted with innocence in her diary “I want to bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met”. Her powerful legacy lives on to inspire new generations through her brave, searching voice serving to highlight the ugliness of injustice and prejudice with grace.

Lucie Fitchett