This riveting, inspiring production, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank’s diary in English, tells the story of a group of German Jews who hid from Nazi persecution in an Amsterdam attic for some two years during World War II. Based on Anne’s diary of this period, we gain a first-hand glimpse of this nerve-wracking incarceration, brightened by the filter of a childlike perspective.
In a production that is both humbling and uplifting, many fine performances reflect the tiny joys, reassuring rituals, and stifling claustrophobia of this terrifying concealment. Amy Dawson (Anne Frank) portrays the mischievous teenager’s dawning maturity with superb clarity and verve, while Christopher Timothy shines as her calm, compassionate father, Otto Frank. Anne’s mother (Kerry Peers) and sister (Victoria Ross) both fluctuate subtly between fortitude and despair, and Steven Pinder, Sarah Ingram and Robert Galas (the van Daans) add a welcome humorous earthiness to the group. Dominic Gately is wonderfully focused as the rather isolated dentist, Mr Dussell, while the indescribable kindness of those outside is movingly represented by Miep Gies (Sally Oliver).
This is a brave choice and director Nikolai Foster adeptly celebrates the great adaptability and resilience of the human spirit. What the captives miss most is touchingly simple – a picnic, a long bath, a cream cake – and in this moving, memorable production, Anne’s own words rightfully remain the star: ‘When I write, I shake off all my cares’.
The Diary of Anne Frank continues at York Theatre Royal until 3 March and then tours.