Tessa Davies reviews The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank
by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Chris Shinn

Based on true events and the actual diary of Anne Frank, this is a compelling and thought provoking play. Director Chris Shinn has done the story justice, and in the telling, he has captured the essence of the story but retained the human pathos and comedy inherent in the original diary. There are a couple of versions of the play and I liked this one because it set the scene and gave the closure that is missing from the other version. I also liked the use of Anne’s voiceovers to set each scene, it could have been quite disjointed if this had not been managed so effectively.

Alice Heydinger played the title role of Anne Frank and she was excellent, with good voice control and a great characterisation. It’s not easy to portray this time in a young girls life, when so much is happening to her physically and with all the pressures of the lifestyle they were forced to adopt. Three years is a long time in an adolescent girl’s life!

Nick Gulvin portrayed a very convincing Mr Frank, he was the calming influence when all else threatened to fall apart. Marcelle Olivier played Mrs Frank with compassion and a hint of bewilderment, which was totally on point for the story. Rosie Wilson (Mrs Van Daan) and David Morris (Mr Van Daan) made an excellent pairing and each produced a strong performance, portraying the hidden schisms in their marriage which only come to light in the confines forced upon them in the play.

The other adults were Michael Husband (Mr Dussell) a very nicely judged characterisation, Jane Boden (Miep) and Paul Lockwood (Mr Kraler) both giving sensitive and strong performances.

The other young performers in the play were Mia Harrison as Margot and Thomas Pikett as Peter. Mia’s performance was very good, calm and supportive throughout, which is so important in a play with so many complex characters. Thomas produced the perfect character in his portrayal of Peter, however I struggled to hear his dialogue. This was particularly noticeable in his long speech in the second half. It was impassioned and it was such a shame that I couldn’t hear the words.

Vocal projection was a bit of an issue, at times, with some of the other performers in this play, I was towards the back of the audience and there were a number of occasions when I was leaning forward trying to hear the dialogue. This was not helped by the restricted sightline, that I had, of stage left. However, I can see that the set designer, Mark Easterfield, had done the very best that he could with the limited space available, and it was an impressive set. Director Chris also blocked the cast so that we could see them for the important speeches but, inevitably, there were times when the actors masked each other or had to speak upstage, making it difficult to hear the dialogue.

The costumes were good, right for the period and with just enough changes and rotation to show the limitations that the family had with the situation they were in. Lighting was spot on, coming up at exactly the right time to highlight the performance.

To say I enjoyed the production would belittle the story, but I really appreciated the performance and the way that the story was brought to life. Many of us are starting to forget the harrowing tales from this period in our history and it is good to be reminded occasionally and in such a well presented play.

My thanks for the excellent hospitality and thank you for giving me something to think about on my drive home.

Tessa Davies
(Regional Councillor for NODA East)

Waterbeach Theatre Company
All performances at
Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

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