The story of Anne Frank, a 13-year-old Jewish girl forced into hiding with her family in Nazi-occupied Holland, has been retold across many mediums on many occasions since it was first published. And rightly so. This heart-breaking, yet life-affirming account, of a young but prodigiously talented author coming to terms with an environment suddenly overcome by hate, intolerance and brutality is of incredible historical importance. It also serves as a cautionary tale of the dangerous and dark path a country can be led down by a charismatic, but evil leader. It should be compulsory reading for everyone, everywhere.
Taking on a book of this magnitude is a big gamble but the Newport Playgoers Society – an amateur dramatic group with nearly a century of history behind them – have collectively pulled it off. Steeped in pathos and humanity, this production does justice to the original text and there is not much higher praise you can give than that. Niamh Jones as Anne has the tough task of being the primary focus of this play but manages it with great aplomb. She effortlessly conveys the hopes, the moments of joy and despair and the lust for life that the teenage Anne Frank conveyed through the pages of diary. She is ably assisted by a talented cast with no weak links. Steve Drowney as Anne’s father Otto Frank deserves special mention for conveying the tender relationship his character shared with his effervescent daughter.
This production’s unique selling point is the original score and choreographed dance sequences. Victoria Hughes, who also plays Miep Gies in the play, choreographed the scenes and her husband Peter Thewless composed the music that accompanies this scenes. At first, I found them distracting but as the play went on, they married well with Anne’s inner monologues to the audience
Also deserving of praise was the attention to detail, which was never less than impressive. This was first evident in the reproductions of Nazi propaganda posters in the theatre foyer and the marvellous set which captures the claustrophobia that the Frank and Van Daan families endured whilst hiding from the Nazis for two years. The Hebrew spoken during the Hanukkah celebrations during one particularly poignant scene also came across as authentic and well researched.
Afterwards, my daughter – who is the same age as Anne Frank when she went into hiding – had plenty to discuss with me about the play during the car journey home afterwards. That, to me, is a sure sign of a play that delivers.
The Diary of Anne Frank plays at the Dolman Theatre until February 8th. For more details click this link: https://www.dolmantheatre.co.