‘In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.’
The innocent words that haunt generations stood proud in what, for me was one of Newport Playgoers Society’s greatest productions.
The humanity of the now iconic diary was not lost as an empathetic and extremely capable cast lent life to this memoirs of a young Jewish girl, forced to hide for nearly two years to escape Nazi persecution.
Anne Frank was just thirteen years of age when she, along with the rest of the family, her father Otto, mother Edith and sister Margot, were forced into hiding in the cramped attic above her father’s business. The atmosphere was became yet more stifling when they were joined by another family, Mr and Mrs Van Daan and son Peter and finally, Mr Dussel, a local dentist.
The timeless complexity of the relationships that develop are the pivot of this offering, and under the delicate directorship of Adele Cordner, the characters come to life with warmth and integrity.
Niamh Jones, bounds with youth and optimism in a well-rounded performance as Anne Frank. It is a joy to watch her transformation into a young woman as her relationship with Peter Van Daan, played engagingly by Niall Hayes gradually develops.
Unsurprisingly, Anne is the platform from which the other characters bounce, and with relentless energy she manages to keep their spirits alive and there are some surprisingly humorous moments amongst the underlying despair.
Eileen Symonds (Mrs Vaan Daan) is triumphant in a moving performance as she endearingly tries to cling on to the glamour of her previous life, whilst Richard Dymond uses all his experience to extract the perfect mix of exasperation and eventual control as her long suffering husband. Their bond is deep, however as proven when she leaps to his defence over a stolen crust of bread.
Anne’s relationship with her mother, played with empathy by Juliet Rimmell, is strained, and I’m guessing entirely identifiable with a teenager of today, but it is a joy to watch her growing curiosity and questioning with her father (Steve Drowley) and Mr Dussel (Tony Mad).
This production has incorporated new and innovative touches, and Seren Howells lends visual joy, hope and suffering in a well- choreographed apparition as The Spirit of Anne, blending both traditional and contemporary dance, whilst the addition of Billy Wildefield as a lone violinist, set slightly off stage contributes greatly to the feel and tone of the era.
The final scene, played with immense control by Steve Drowley will…and should, remain with all of us.
There are few times when all the components of successful theatre ie. set, mood and characterisation, combine – This is one of those times!
Don’t miss it.
The Diary of Anne Frank runs at Newport’s Dolman Theatre until February 8th. Tel: 01633 263670 for ticket details.