Saturday, 18 May 2019

'A German Life' at the Bridge Theatre

The Bridge Theatre pulled off a coup last month when it managed to get Maggie Smth back onto the stage for the first time in over a decade to perform the one women play 'A German Life'. The play is by Christopher Hampton and is based on a documentary about the early life of Brunhilde Pomsel who was living in an old folks home in Munich and recounts the stories of her life growing up in Berlin after the First World War. A very ordinary girl who grew up to be close to the centre of very extraordinary times when she became a typist in the office of Joseph Goebells during the Second World War.

The play is basically one long monologue by Maggie, sitting in her room in the old folks home as she tries to remember what happened all those years ago. As such, it's full of pauses, of ums and ahhs as she tries to remember the past as accurately as she can but there was very little of significance for her to latch onto at the time since she wasn't interested in politics and her job was just a job. It's a very clever piece of writing. And, of course, a clever piece of acting.

She talks about her best friend Eva now and then, who was Jewish, and we hear about how her friend's life became worse with losing work, lack of food, no money for rent and other things. Towards the end of the play we hear how Brunhilde goes to the Holocaust education centre many years after the war to find out what happened to Eva to be told that she died in Auschwitz. There are lots of little tales and reminiscences, of Brunhilde going to great lengths to get back to Berlin as the Russians advanced rather than staying safely in the countryside, and that's how she was arrested and imprisoned for five years. There's very little directly said about the nazis or her job but a lot is implied and hinted at through her rambling chatting about the past.

The play was only on for a short run and has now finished but it was great to see Dame Maggie on stage again. She had a definite presence on that small stage, emphasised since she was the only one there so all eyes were on her.

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