WHEN Maitland couple Guil Noronha and Lesley Coombes visited Amsterdam in 2013 they queued for an hour to visit Anne Frank House, where members of Jewish families hid from German officials for two years during World War II.
Anne Frank, the younger daughter of Otto Frank, the building owner, had been given a diary for her 13th birthday just a month before they went into hiding in 1942, and she kept a daily record of the interactions between the attic’s nine residents.
After the hiding place was discovered by the Germans in 1944, those living there were transported to concentration camps in Poland. All, except Otto Frank, were executed before the war ended, with Anne dying only a few weeks before the German capitulation.
While all the furnishings had been removed by the military officials, the diary was found in the empty attic by one of Mr Frank’s employees, and given to him when he returned from the concentration camp. He had it published in 1947 and the book became a best-seller around the world, with American playwrights Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett adapting it for the stage in 1955. Like the diary, the play has attracted millions of fans worldwide.
Guil and Lesley bought a copy of the play at the Anne Frank House shop, and are co-directing a production of it for Maitland Repertory Theatre that opens on September 20.
They have retained the cramped nature of the two-level attic space, and simulated the decorations that Anne pasted on a wall, including newspaper clippings with photos of Hollywood stars Greta Garbo and Ginger Rogers. And, as was the case in real life, the actors playing the people living in the concealed attic will remain there when not in a scene.
The cast includes 15-year-old Abbey Matt, as Anne, Ian Robinson as her father, Otto, Dimity Eveleens as mother, Edith, Giverny Burke as Anne’s older sister, Margot, Brian Randell as Putti Van Daan, a former business partner of Otto Frank who heads the other family in hiding, Jo Cooper as Mrs Van Daan, and Christopher Henderson as their shy teenage son, Peter, who is attracted to Anne. Oliver Pink is Jan Dussell, a hard-to-get-on-with dentist who joins the hidden group, Anna Balfour is Miep Gies, a worker in Otto’s factory who brings the attic occupants food and news from the outside world, and Alastair Anderberg is a former business associate of Otto who also helps them.
The Diary of Anne Frank opens on Wednesday, September 20, at 8pm, then has Friday and Saturday 8pm shows until October 7, plus 2pm Sunday matinees on September 24 and October 1. Tickets: $22, concession $17. Bookings: 4931 2800.