Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A tragic tale of hope

Words on a page: Rebecca Gill gives a memorable performance as Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank

Swan Theatre Amateur Company


THERE was nothing really unusual about Anne Frank. She was a teenager who argued with a mother she felt didn't treat her as an adult, she looked up to her father, had a sparring relationship with boys . . . oh, and she kept a diary of her life and feelings. It covers most teenage girls, anytime, anywhere.

Had it not been for the Second World War she might have gone to Paris and become the famous singer or musician she dreamed of becoming, or, more likely she would have married someone like her friend Peter, had her own children, and only her friends and relations would ever have heard of her.

And that is the strength of STAC's excellent production of this stage adaptation. Anne and her life are ordinary as are her parents and those sharing their hiding place, the van Daan family and lonely dentist Dussell. It is the situation they are thrown into that is extraordinary.

The Franks, Jews, left Germany for Amsterdam in 1933 when Hitler came to power. Holland was overrun and as restrictions on Jews increased, and the danger increased the Franks went into hiding in the attic of the building where Otto Franks had his herb and spice import export business, Otto, wife Edith and daughters Margot and Anne

Joining them were Mr and Mrs van Daan and their son Peter and, later, dentist Mr Dussel was given sanctuary for a day or two – and remained until the end.

We see their clashes of personality and the moments of frustration that stem from eight people living in a confined space, 24 hours a day with a curfew of silence from 8am to 6pm each day,but must of all we see the attempts to live an ordinary life as best they can for almost two years.

Anne and Peter, played by Connor Haines find a growing  closeness in their isolation

Then, after D-Day, with liberation in sight, the group are betrayed and Otto is the only survivor of the eight after they are sent to concentration camps. Anne was to die in Belsen in a typhus epidemic in March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British the following month.

In the play they are betrayed by a thief, in reality no one was identified and there are other changes from the original Dairy of a Young Girl, the name of the other family with the Franks and the dentist have been changed, but the essence of the teenager's diary, and the attempts to live a normal life in the darkest days of the war shine through in the script from Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.

Through her diary, full of optimism, Anne became a symbol of hope and even triumph.

Schoolgirl Rebecca Gill gives a memorable performance as the flighty, argumentative, talkative, over confident yet still unsure of herself Anne. It was a performance with a maturity way beyond her tender years.

Gemma Humfress, another schoolgirl studying drama at GCSE, was a perfect foil as the quiet unassuming Margot, introvert to Anne's gaily extrovert.

Connor Haines, another schoolboy, gives us all the angst of adolescence as the 16 year old Peter, a loner who finds mixing with anyone, particularly girls, difficult. His blossoming friendship with Anne is a feature of the play.

Of the adults John Horton gives a towering performance as Otto, the quiet, confident businessman who leads from the front while wife Edith played by STAC regular Caroline Blamey, fusses around, as mothers should, keeping the peace.

Andrew Whittle gives us a bluff van Daam, inclined to moan while Skye Witney's Mrs van Daan obsesses about her fur coat – the best money can buy – the wealth she once had and secretly making sure her hubby gets a bit extra when it comes to the meagre rations.

Dentist Dussell, played by Robert Coppini is a loner and a moaner who sees every noise as the herald of capture.

Their only link with the outside world comes in the form of Miep, played by Ellie Jarvie, who brings their rations and the building's owner Mr Kraler played by Malc Williams – who run the same risk as the Franks if they are caught.

We know the story but director Tim Crow keeps up a quiet and gentle tension both between the characters and the fear of the inevitable capture and full marks to Andy Hares for an excellent set design to give three action areas separated by lights.

At times it is funny, at times moving, but it is always excellent. To 16-02-13

Roger Clarke

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