When I walked into Bedlam Theatre to see ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ I was filled with a slight sense of trepidation, mainly because I knew the play wasn’t going to end on a happy note; of course it did not but that didn’t mean the play didn’t have moments of laughter and hope and it is those moments, juxtaposed by the moments of deep sadness and feelings of dreadful loss and waste that resonated with me as I left the theatre.
The play is based on the diary of 13 year old Anne Frank who, alongside her family hid in an annex in Amsterdam during the Second World War when The Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis. She kept this diary during their 2 years there and it became one of her only friends and left behind important messages of optimism after she had gone.
The cast and direction of this production (by Marion Bretagne) was absolutely stunning. The piece was handled with sensitivity and care and produced an incredible piece of theatre. Peter Morrison who played the part of Otto Frank, who brought the diary to public consumption portrayed a multi faceted character beautifully, being a caring father, loving husband and the calming presence in the annex. The last moments of the play features a monologue from him returning to the attic, the lone survivor of the 8 who went on the trains east and that monologue shows the unspeakable grief that he must have felt beautifully.
All of the cast were incredible and it is clear the amount of thought and effort that went into this production. Alongside Morrison, a special mention must, of course, go to Lucy Davidson who brought Anne Frank to life. Davidson produced a version of Frank that connected with the audience immediately and showed all the sides of life in the annex through the eyes of the young teenager. We see her arguing with her parents, learning what liking a boy (Peter van Daan) means and writing in her diary, shown through poignant monologues that are intermittently dispersed throughout the play. This is a tremendously difficult role to bring to life and Davidson rose to the challenge beautifully.
If this play had been sad the whole way through then it would have been quite harrowing to watch. Although of course it was upsetting at the end and many parts in the middle showed the tensions of life in the annex as well, we also saw the happy parts of normal family life even though they weren’t living a normal life. Mr and Mrs van Daan brought humour to the roles and allowed some light relief between scenes of intense emotion.
Overall, I really would recommend this play to any individual, regardless of whether you have read the book or not. It is not important to have read the book as the play feels like a first hand retelling by the author herself and, for some, may even be a more personal experience as at times, it does feel like you are trapped there with them, experiencing what they may have gone through, if only to a small degree.
Guest Reviewer: Katy Galloway