Review by Emily Sutherland
Imagine how it must have been for seven, and then eight, people to be confined in a small space, where they had to be very quiet during the day; where they were dependent on friends to bring them food and necessities; where they lived in constant fear of being discovered and taken to a concentration camp. The inevitable tensions that this situation would create are brought to life in this fine performance of The Diary of Anne Frank by the Adelaide Repertory Theatre. The set gives a grim picture of how limited were the living quarters for these people. At the back of the stage is a large screen, which is used to very good effect, initially introducing the cast in film credits against images of the invasion of Holland by the German army and later allowing Anne to speak directly from her diary. The play begins with Otto Frank the sole survivor, returning after the war, with Miep, the woman who had been their link with the outside world, and who had risked her own safety to bring them food. Otto Frank is now a broken man, worn down by all that he had suffered. Finding Anne’s diary was some small consolation, but from that discovery the story of a young Jewish girl has gone out to the world, inspiring a film, plays, and music. The play we saw last night was by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
Credit must go to the Director, Geoff Britain, who pulled all the elements together to produce the final result. The uniformly excellent performances of the cast, all combined to result in a moving portrayal not only of a young girl growing up in a testing situation, but the interaction between the disparate group of people forced into close living.
Henny Walters gives a brilliant, totally convincing performance, as Anne Frank. Tim Williams as her father, Otto Frank and Nicole Rutty, as her mother Edith Frank give strong performances, yet to single them out is to do a disservice to all of the cast who were uniformly excellent. It is hard to imagine that those people on stage had any other identity than the characters they were portraying. The scenes when tempers boil over, such as when Mr Van Daan (Tim Taylor) is caught stealing food, or Mrs Van Daan (Teresa Hornby) flirts with Otto Frank, to his disquiet and his wife’s disgust, indicate the tensions and interactions which occurred. Margot Frank, (Genevieve Venning) may have had the most difficult role as she has so little to say, but she does establish herself as a presence and an important foil to Anne’s exuberance. The growing rapport between Anne and Peter Van Daan (Ronan Banks) provides the young people with the opportunity to express their fears and uncertainties. Their times together are their escape from the arguments, which the adults call ‘discussions’ that rage at times. The tragedy was that they occupants of that small loft in Amsterdam, who had endured confinement for nearly two years, were captured just before the end of the war, and the only survivor was Otto Frank.
The Diary of Anne Frank may have been set during World War II but it is pertinent today, as we learn of civilians who are caught up in wars not of their choosing. The audience on opening night was absorbed throughout, with that pause before the final applause that comes when a play has touched hearts as well as minds. It brought home the total futility of war, and its destruction of so many lives.