Feeding off the warmth of emotion, character growth and bustling community that unfolds in this performance utterly destroys any choke hold or bracketing stance that in all this time, events unfold in the squat, cramp confines of attic space. In the two years that occupy the period of invasion and disappearances, the light of hope holds bright against the darkness that surrounds.
Never mind that they had hope however. Hope can only get you so far.
Utilitarian beds, jamming in eight for close quarters, presents quite the cosy atmosphere. Living in this face-to-feet environment breeds itself a natural sweat of claustrophobia. One that delivers punches of levity throughout. Standing toe-to-toe in clashes and erupting arguments, there is nowhere in the attic to go, a parallel with the unspooling outside.
Kelly Klein radiates optimism in her titular role. For a petite actor, she wields a massive beam of confidence and enthusiasm readily apparent in her voice and step. Dreams and daring, the spirit does not waver and as the forces crumble around her, she still stands tall.
Neither overshadowing nor fading into the background as her sister, Margot, Julie Schroll contrasts Klein's Anne on the differences of facing realisation. Of seeing it as it is and just about slouching from the weight of it all. She's polite about it.
Helping the families hide from the Nazis, Miep Gies and Mr Kraler (Rebecca Reinhardt Gregory Mach respectively) pop in with few and fleeting scenes. They bring with them rations and a smell of the outside on their clothes. With zero sense of time or feeling of days, they appear and disappear along the lines of keeping a beat on the outside world. Every next visit something to look forward to, even if that's not so good news.
The situation is dire and much fraught, but the corners of the mouth go smiling and injecting shots of sunshine. Never then forgetting the absolute panic, stress and impending doom that pains the space of World War II in Amsterdam.
Gannon McHale grumps his way in as Mr Dussel, an extra mouth sucking at the teat of vanishing rations. Cranky old man is down pat and provides a nice bounce off of for some of the altercations.
Smooth and coarse at the same time, Robin Bloodworth and Hannah Ingram as Mr and Mrs Van Daan, are quite and quietly chipping away at things. Some unrest here, a little doubt there, and a bit of undermining to boot. They really work it.
Greg Pragel takes well to the role of the Van Daan's son, Peter. A shy stuck-in-his-room type, his body actually relaxes as he develops something of a spine over the course of hiding with the group.
Wits are constantly on stand-by, ready to summon the clench. It's an up and down affair that creeps higher and higher knowing full well that there is an end somewhere and that that end isn't pretty at all.
From mouse to lioness, it's a belter of a stunner and vein toward the latter half as Tricia Matthews rips it up as Anne's mother, Edith. A bottle rocket that unleashes a lesson in how keeping your tongue does not keep the bad away. Matthews shatters and nails it dead centre.
Danny Vaccaro breathes a warm strength and steely resolve, commanding as Otto Frank. A stern and reasoned father, he guides the attic with a measured peace and sensibility. Always alert and there, Vaccaro is cool, calm and connective. His moments with Klein are full of heart and caring. A match between the two that sings the harmony in their father-daughter relationship.
Danny Vaccaro and Kelly Klein as Otto and Anne Frank
Barter Theatre's production of The Diary of Anne Frank (2010)
While the first act is bustling with getting comfortable and having to deal with getting comfortable, a cloud of fear gently smothers the second act. It's a blindside all too knowing of its presence and how to crack your rib. Tension mounts a stead and gallops as the other bookend nears. And when it does, it just leaves a hole, gaping wide and silent.
Hope absolutely beams through in The Diary of Anne Frank. A moving experience that reminds you gracefully to pick up your heart from where it is off of the floor when the lights go out.
Watching a leg of Barter Theatre's national tour on a chilly night of Tuesday, 9 November 2010 at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset. On the edge of the attic for two hours with a 15 minute intermission.
Reviewed on Thursday, 18 November 2010