Review: The Diary Of Anne Frank - York Theatre Royal

The Diary Of Anne Frank

Tuesday 21st February 2012: The story of the Jewish family hiding in the annex as told through the eyes of a young girl has touched people on every continent.  Now, The Diary of Anne Frank is given a brand new theatrical production courtesy of York Theatre Royal and Touring Consortium Theatre Company.

Being a growing girl, making her way from being a teenager to the early stages of womanhood, is difficult in any circumstance, but Anne Frank must endure this along with a situation most of us cannot imagine. 
With the Nazis taking control of Amsterdam, the Franks are forced in to hiding along with the Van Daan family (actually called the Van Pels in reality, but changed by Anne in her writing), taking refuge in a hidden annex in the building where Otto Frank had previously worked. At first Anne, always full of energy and usually looking on the bright side of life, sees this all as a great adventure – sadly this is an adventure that most of us attending the press night knew the ending to well before we took our seats.

As the time goes on, and the 7 original occupants of the annex grows to 8, strains begin to show. With food and money scarce, the necessity of being quiet during working hours so as not to alert others to their presence, and the truth of what was happening to the outside world all combining, it is hardly surprising that tempers fray. Add in to this 2 children that are only really starting to understand themselves, not to mention the word around them, and you end up with a powerful mix.

Without exception, the performances are wonderful, with special praise going to Amy Dawson as Anne. Her performance gets the balance and energy level perfectly right; every parent of a teenager will identify with her high energy levels mixed with temper tantrums and the way they can switch in a heartbeat.

The cast has a vast range of experience – from the safe pair of hands of Christopher Timothy to Victoria Ross making her professional debut in fine style – and come together in what is a great ensemble performance. This is not really a production centred on an individual, despite the source material, but is a tale about how the group dynamic changes and eventually gets pushed to breaking point. 
And maybe this is where the show falls behind the book. The book is a completely personal account, solely in Anne’s own words, whereas the play takes a more general overview and loses a little impact in the process. You don’t get the feeling of being in her shoes but feel more like an outsider peeping in.
In addition, Morgan Large’s deliberately non-naturalistic open sided set, coupled with Richard G Jones’ lighting, creates no sense of claustrophobia – indeed there is enough space for the cast to move items about in dance-like choreographed sequences. There is no feeling of tension that a lack of space can create. No isolation from the outside world.

One nice touch is that for most of the production Phillip Marriott’s German Security Police Office sits just off set, lit to be constantly in view – a menacing presence of what lies in wait for those in hiding should they step foot outside and, of course, to the fate that ultimate awaits them.
The production has its flaws but it still has its stand out moments – the moments of humour that pierce through the harsh reality of their lives, simple gifts made by Anne for Hanukkah bringing a reminder of what happiness was, and the growing relationship between the two children despite the war torn, anti-Semitic backdrop are all worthy of note.
Maybe the problem is because we already know the ending but it is because we know the beginning, what caused them to go in to hiding to begin with, that the show should be seen by as many as possible.  In the main, this production does justice to the lives of the real people it portrays, people we should never forget.

The Diary of Anne Frank continues at York Theatre Royal until until 3 March and then on tour nationally.

Review by James Eaglesfield

York Theatre Royal
Dates: Fri 17 Feb – Sat 03 Mar
Times: 7.30pm with matinees 2pm (Thu) and 2.30pm (Sat)
Venue: Main House
Tickets: £10-20; £12 Matinees; £7 Students, Schools & U25s
Access Shows: Signed Performance - Wed 22 Feb, 7.30pm; Captioned - Sat 3 Mar, 2.30pm; Audio Described – Sat 3 Mar, 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Tour Dates:
Windsor Theatre Royal, Mon 12 – Sat 17 March
01753 853888,

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Tue 6 – Sat 10 March
01902 429212,
Bradford Alhambra Theatre, Tue 20 – Sat 24 March
01274 432000,

Wycombe Swan Theatre, Tue 27 – Sat 31 March
01494 512000,

Blackpool Grand Theatre, Mon 16 – Sat 21 April
01253 743346,

Cheltenham Everyman Theatre, Mon 23 – Sat 28 April
01242 572573,

Eastbourne Devonshire Park Theatre, Tues 1 – Sat 5 May
01323 412000,

Nottingham Theatre Royal, Tue 8 – Sat 12 May
0115 9895555,

Bath Theatre Royal, Mon 14 – Sat 19 May
01225 448844,

Oxford Playhouse Theatre, Tue 22 –Sat 26 May
01865 305305,