Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Diary of Anne Frank

Photos by Matthias Essinger

The New Theatre presents, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, at the New Theatre, King St. Newtown. 9 June - 11 July.

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1955), by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, is an adaption from THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (1952) which was a published text of the Dutch language diary of Anne Frank, telling the story of two families hiding from the Nazi regime in the 1940's, in Amsterdam. The original text was edited (cleaned-up) and published by the only surviving member of one of the families, Otto Frank. The famous film of 1959, had a screenplay by the same playwrights, Directed by George Stevens.

The story is famous and for most of the audience the experience in the theatre is one of melancholic memory, and an admiration of the human spirit, which these people epitomise. The novel has often been on the school syllabus and a part of our education. If one has seen the story before, this present production at the New Theatre is, simply, an adequate telling. For, any seeing it for the first time, perhaps, the profound dignities of the people of the play will be enormously awe inspiring, and be sufficient for a rewarding experience, despite any short comings of the production. The company of artists at the New Theatre have treated the responsibility of the story that they are telling with great purpose and honour. The contemporary relevancy of this 'terrible' story is sadly resonant to all of us as we sit in the theatre and recall the terrifying articles in our daily newspapers of present-day peoples, in flight and fright. The refugees and terrorists of our world.

Director, Sam Thomas, with her Designers (Set Design, by Alan Walpole, Costume Design, by Famke Visser) have created a space and look, entirely believable, if not, incongruously, appearing to be too spacious. Ms Thomas stages the work competently. All the actors under the care of Ms Thomas, have created a superficial character impression that is believable, but she has not always found a way to assist the actors to play with a convincing depth of textual ownership and/or emotional truthfulness. It is uncomfortable, sometimes, to hear the words nicely articulated but not anchored to emotional depths/experience. Where the reality of watching actors at work dominates the experience of complete belief in the world of the play, some more work needs to take place.

Justina Ward, playing Anne Frank, gives us the best work of the night, and has captured the sprightly adolescent frustrations and needs to understand her grievances and generosities in her attic imprisonment. Sometimes attractive, sometimes spiky, sometimes funny, sometimes selfish, mean or angry. Ms Ward does not back away from the less admirable Anne, and gives us a rounded, human being. David Wiernik, as Peter, gives a reasonable reading with his limited textual opportunities. The other actors are inconsistent with their believability. All have moments, but all are, relatively, unreliable, so that they draw us out of the suspension of disbelief, and we become aware of actors, relatively, reciting text. The general sense of the 'posturing' of moments in the acting of the situations of the story, undermines the complete emotional impact of the writing and the reality of the dreadful tensions of the 'history' that the play version of the diary records.

Take the young, they may be moved. They could be inspired. Otherwise, Comme ci, comme ca.

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