The play, as most people will know, is based on the true life story of the Frank family, and some of their friends, who were forced to hide from the Nazis in the secret annexe built behind and above the offices of Opekta – the company founded by Otto Frank. The family moved into the annexe on 5th July 1942, and they remained there until 1st August 1944. Anne Frank was just 14 when the family first went into hiding and throughout her years of “imprisonment” kept a diary. Her diary was published after her death by her Father Otto Frank, as he knew this was her dearest wish, and it is from the pages of this diary we learn of their extra-ordinary existence.
This is a beautiful and thought provoking piece, sensitively directed by Nikolai Foster, who manages to bring out the humour as well as the tensions and ultimate tragedy. It would have been quite easy for this play to become bogged down in misery – after all the whole experience is unthinkable for most of us, but Foster maintains a strong vein of humour running right through the play until the ending.
The cast play their roles admirably, illustrating how each person has a different breaking point, and how sometimes the very smallest thing can build up to a crisis, and so become the straw that breaks the camels back.
Anne is played by a very accomplished young actress – Amy Dawson. This is a difficult role as Anne comes over as a rather precocious young lady, with an almost Pollyanna like hope for the future. She is full of energy which bursts out of her all the time, and loves practical jokes. She must have been a very difficult person to live with!
Throughout much of the play it appears that Anne has no inkling of the seriousness of their situation, and in fact shies away from any in depth discussion only wanting to talk about “when we go home again.” Her diary however shows that she was thinking deeply throughout their time of forced incarceration.
The play touches on the antipathy between Anne and her Mother – beautifully played by Kerry Peers – but this is an area that could have been explored more fully. The contrast between the way Anne acted towards her Mother, and her Father – played very sympathetically by Christopher Timothy is brought out quite strongly.
The set designed by Morgan Large is just right, showing the lack of amenities provided for the family without being stark and bare, and without interfering with or distracting from the action of the play.
I will leave the last word regarding this remarkable play to Director Nikolai Foster: “Sadly this play remains relevant and should not be viewed as a historical document from our collective pasts. From Hitler to Milosevic, to Gaddafi and now Assad, despots and genocide continue. It is the responsibility of artists and all of us engaging in theatre, to challenge injustice and provide a loud voice of reason. Hopefully this play and the beautiful voice of its’ extraordinary creator, go a little way towards achieving this.”