REVIEW: The Diary of Anne Frank at Sheringham Little Theatre

Just Regional
Mar 2, 2015 3 mins read

There were no cheers, no standing ovations and only hesitant muted clapping after the showing of The Diary of Anne Frank at the Sheringham Little Theatre recently.

Those going to watch this show knew there could be no happy ending. This was real life reincarnated not a fairy tale and an atmosphere of doomed inevitability hovered over the stage from the outset.

It was easy to imagine the claustrophobic incarceration the eight unfortunate Jews had to endure in the secret annex in Amsterdam. Kirk Wills, director, produced a master stroke in his set design. The tiny stage was transformed into the annex with the different rooms shown in layers. Not only did this solve the problem of limited stage space but it also created a stifling awareness of their hidden prison.

The descriptions of the residents of the annex in Anne Frank’s diary were clear and the cast were exceptional in their portrayals of these characters. So much so that I didn’t need to know their names for I recognised them instantly. They were the gauche Peter (Zachary Green) cringingly introverted, Margot (Victoria Stowell) quiet and withdrawn and uncannily the image of the real Margot, pretentious and irksome Mrs Van Daan (Philippa Baillie), long suffering and greedy Mr. Van Daan (Martin Rodwell), spoilt, whiney Mr. Dussel (Richard Delahaye) and nervous, highly strung Edith (Janet Hignett) superb all.

Anne Frank, played by Olivia Taylor, was quite rightly the star of the show. Just like the real Anne she bubbled with unquenchable life. You felt the yearning that Anne had to break free, to live, to dance and write and quite honestly Olivia was Anne Frank. She displayed natural and exceptional talent with aplomb.

The only complaint to the gifted direction of Kirk Wills I held was the scene that the audience had dreaded happening, the arrival of the secret police to arrest the annex inhabitants. I expected them to arrive like starving lions, raucous and cruel; instead they crept in like kittens! They remained silent, one clutched a pencil and folder instead of a weapon and another even tidied a cushion and chair! I was really irritated by this as the henchmen of the Nazis were renowned for being anything but benevolent. (Afterwards I wondered if this was Kirk Will’s interpretation of the acquiescence shown by many Jews to their inevitable fates, in which case it was justified.)

All was forgiven however, when a screen appeared and we were reminded of the cruelty the innocents suffered by a series of genuine photographs attesting to their terrible fates.

Otto Frank (Matt Scantlebury) was the only annex survivor by the war’s end. He was the king pin that had held everyone together (both in the real annex and on stage). He returned to the stage alone and emotionally described the demise of his family and friends, the place, time and cause of each death. I’m sure there were tears in his eyes, or were they mine?

The cast lined up at the end but the audience didn’t give them the resounding accolades they deserved. It was almost too much to politely clap when all you wanted to do was drop your head and cry.

Arlene Todd

Olivia Taylor who played the lead role of Anne Frank

Olivia Taylor who played the lead role of Anne Frank

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