A thought-provoking and sensitive piece of well-produced drama by Artform. The small 80-seat studio at the Broadway Theatre offers an intimacy that lends itself perfectly to the storyline.
The play opens in June 1942 when the Frank family, along with the Van Daan family, are secreted away in a secret annexe in the top floors of an office building in central Amsterdam. Being Jewish their rights have been steadily eroded and they now face certain deportation. Mr Kraler, their friend and business manager, responsible for their confiscated concerns, along with Miep Gies, a loyal employee, tend to their daily needs. The families look forward to their evening visits; their only interaction with the outside world.
The production is imaginatively conceived to evoke the confined and limited nature of life for these families during their period of hiding – with its excellent multi-level set, authentic costumes and props along with the clever interplay of blackout and radio recordings to suggest what is happening outside the annexe, and silence for within, the performance is hugely impactful. The eight characters enter the stage and remain throughout the entire performance thus giving a clear insight into the lack of privacy and the cramped nature of the families’ living space.
One could assume that the play would be quite depressing but in fact it isn’t; there are moments of humour and essentially it displays human life in microcosm- arguments, flirtations, managing daily human needs, celebrations, relationships between husband and wife, parent and child and teenage development. It demonstrates the resilience of man to cope with what befalls them. That said, I defy anyone not to shed a tear at the end.
I congratulate all the actors but special mention has to be given to Frances Gillard, playing the title role. Her performance belied her age – she is still at school – yet she managed to evince the full gamut of human emotions; excitement, playfulness, bashfulness, sadness, hope and despair. Keep an eye out- Frances is definitely one to watch.
It is a shame that such an excellent piece of work only gets 4 airings. There are just a limited number of seats available on Saturday 14th at 7.45pm. The play is produced in recognition of the 75th year since the diary was written and 70 years since it was published. A fitting memorial and one that, if you can get a ticket, is well worth catching.