THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK – Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, until Saturday.
Reviewer: Peter McGarry
There are no two ways about it – this is theatre transcending local bounds.
The story of the ill-fated teenage girl who became a victim of the evils of war is truly universal and this production captures its every nuance with a style and dignity which could hardly be surpassed.
Sealed off with her Jewish family in a large Amsterdam house to elude Nazi captivity, Anne Frank displayed the joyous optimism of youth in her daily writings.
Her character is most poignantly revealed in a pivotal scene in which she and a young male friend look up to the sky and nature and a beautiful world from their cramped and dingy environment. The mood is touchingly realised here in the fine performances of Molly Ives and Rob Redwood, the girl starry-eyed and optimistic, the boy tentative, awkward and wondering.
Mary MacDonald’s compassionate direction savours such moments while pulling no punches over the loud arguments that punctuate the plight of eight people forced into a claustrophobic elongated nightmare. A constant swirl of movement as the different characters go about day-to-day living is remarkably achieved on a multi-purpose set for which design and delivery credits go to Gus MacDonald and John Ellam.
In performance, of course, the huge weight of responsibility lies with Molly Ives (and, on alternate nights, Scarlett Behl). Anne Frank’s writing gives the key – she might be downcast but never in despair. Molly Ives on the first night portrays the sometimes hyper ebullience and relentless idealism with great skill.
Around her is an ensemble of richly developed family and friends displaying emotions ranging between love, anger, fear and bluff humour. Michael Barker superbly conveys the fragile control and ultimate tragic awareness of Anne’s father, Rosemary Gowers focuses the quiet sensitivity of her mother, Chris Ives and Gus MacDonald brilliantly depict the constantly rowing guest couple.
As an illustration of how mankind can respond to circumstances of extreme terror and deprivation, Anne Frank’s story has few equals. The final moments of this production are a masterclass in suspense.