Captivating, historically significant play
Presented by Adelaide Festival
Reviewed 23rd February 2021
A German Life is based on testimonial from Brunhilde Pomsel the personal secretary to the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels. Pomsel passed away in 2017 at the age of 106. After she turned 100, she sat down with the media team of Christian Krönes, Olaf Műller, Roland Schrotthofer and Florian Weigensamer to film the 2016 full length documentary also titled A German Life, which provides the source material for this production.
Pomsel was in her position with the Nazis for the final three years of World War II. The detailed insight in the fall of Nazi Germany from such a key position arises from her role that involved transcribing letters, diary entries, and other essential documents from the time.
Set in the nursing home of the standalone character with angled walls to allow projections from real life footage during and after the war, the show is confessional, direct to the audience as if recalling key memories in a semi-guided fashion.
Robyn Nevin as Pomsel showed herself as apolitical, more focussed on her job and potential income than the atrocities that she said she didn’t know were occurring until toward the end of the war.
It is smart writing, condensing the source material into a smooth narrative that draws out the character traits in a way that highlights what happened in the day to day life of a German working for the Nazi government. There are moments of dry wit and tender recollections that successfully humanises grotesque historical moments while neatly granting insight into one of the general population in the lead up to and after the war.
Nevin is a captivating performer in the role. She brilliantly encapsulates the character and the realities of memory, with some moments lost entirely, others interrupted, and other details so precise that they stick in the mind. Her timing and use of tone neatly punctuated and steered the audience through the many years of memories and all the events of the time. The shuffling to and from the kettle and other furniture, and a constant hunt for eye glasses that are placed down wonderfully, emphasises the character’s state of mind while demonstrating the restrictions in her current life.
A German Life at the Adelaide Festival 2021 is directed by Neil Armfield, associate direction by Chris Parker with music composed by Alan John, set and costume design by Dale Ferguson, lighting design by Nigel Levings, sound design by Jane Rossetto, and Catherine Finnis on Cello.
Image credit James Green
Reviewed by Alex Dunkin
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
Season: 19th February-14th March 2021
Duration: 1 hour 30 mins
Tickets: $35.00 – $99.00