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Review: The Diary of Anne Frank, Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill

By Naomi Hamer

Whilst the thought of comparing the experiences of Anne Frank from her diary entries between July 1942 and January 1944 and young girls of a similar age now isn’t lost on me, I couldn’t help it.

Mr Van Daan (David Schad) loses his temper with Anne (Genevieve Papadopoulos); unable to take her frivolous thirteen year old behaviour seriously, as he compares her childishness to her older sister Margot’s (Brittany Macchetta), who is performed as cool, calm, collected and most importantly guarded. Margot never appears to reveal too much of herself, which is taken as an antidote to Anne’s shrill childishness in Act One. It is an otherwise unfair expectation on a young girl, even if the general expectation of that era was to be seen and not heard. Her mother, Edith Frank (Judy Jankovics) reminds us of this, telling her not to talk back to him, that she needs to learn to bite her tongue.

In 2019, this is a really important scene to deconstruct, whilst The Diary of Anne Frank is performed naturalistically, as if we were in Amsterdam 1942-45 there are some strong parallels to the current zeitgeist. Are our expectations of young girls hypocritical? Just like Anne, we expect them to be innocent and naive but at the same time to know their place and not push the boundaries, to do exactly as their told without any questions. And when Anne transgresses these expectations, all hell breaks loose. Now, the scene in question may be exaggerated by the circumstance of being stuck so close and in such a small confined space every day of their foreseeable lives but then what excuse do we have for the language we use to describe young women in 2019 who don’t want to be quiet?

In this adaption of The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, it’s November 1945 and we open on Mr Otto Frank (Dave Kirkham), sitting at a desk. He’s greeted by Miep Gies (Kristina Ulich) one of the Frank family’s helpers. They talk softly before Miep hands him his daughter Anne’s diary that was left behind when they were raided and sent to the concentration camps less than two years before. The rest of the first act is scenes from the family’s time in hiding in Amsterdam between July - December 1942 with the Van Daans family when Anne Frank was thirteen. The second act is just over a year later from January - July 1944. Genevieve Papadopoulos portrayal of Anne is refreshing, capturing both the sweet, rowdy, button pusher who doesn’t understand boys or Peter in Act One, as well as the more brooding, anxious and inquisitive maturing fourteen year old Anne who begins to discover boys or at least the only boy in her vicinity - Peter in the second act. We see the stoic wife and mother in Edith Frank played by Judy Jankovics who takes everything in her stride until Mr Van Daans bread stealing is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Dave Kirkham’s Otto Frank is level headed and kind, putting others before himself. Kristina Ulich’s Miep is the law breaking friend who puts herself on the line for both families.

Faith Jessel’s direction could be felt on all aspects of the production. From the soft piano played between the scenes and during the diary entry voiceovers, creating a semblance of continuity throughout the play. The projection of keywords and sections from Anne Frank’s diary above the set carried the audience from moment to moment and the costumes were beautiful. From Anne’s floral dress at the end of act one to Mrs Van Daans coat and Margot’s eggplant dress - the fashion of the 1940s was distinctly captured.

It’s hard to know what is fact from fiction, real life to imagination in a classic tale like that of Anne Frank’s diary. This isn’t so much my questioning of her own experiences but questions of the translations from Dutch into English and then the larger translations of the diary into a play. But in any case, Castle Hill’s Pavilion Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank captured the fear and the spirit of the performance wholeheartedly.

The Diary of Anne Frank runs from 20 September - 12 October 2019 at the Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill

Image Credit: Chris Lundle

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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