#SheReviews ‘A German Life’

June 9, 2021


Yesterday I saw the Australian Tour of A German Life at the Playhouse. Presented by John Frost for The Gordon Frost Organisation and QPAC in Brisbane, the play is based Brunhilde Pomsel’s interviews with a group of Austrian Filmmakers in 2016. British playwright Christopher Hampton was fascinated by the testimony of the 103-year-old woman who claimed to be ‘apolitical’ while working as secretary to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels during the Third Reich. Brunhilde was not only one of the last eyewitnesses in 2013 to this era, but she was also still mentally sharp, seemingly honest, likeable, and convincing. Proud of her professional achievement of being a fast stenographer, she ignored the evidence of the regime’s atrocities around her. Herein lies the message for a contemporary society as quoted by Robyn Nevin in 2021: ‘to think about … the dangers [posed by] propaganda, of the gradual manipulation of a country’s people.’

Neil Armfield writes in his Director’s Note that just before her death aged 106 in 2017 Brunhilde said: ‘Hitler was elected democratically, and bit by bit he got his own way. Of course that could always repeat itself with Trump, or Erdoğan…’ Considering the length of being witness to the change of political tuning Brunhilde’s words represent a timely warning.

Robyn Nevin, who needs no introduction, performed an amazing tour de force as Brunhilde Pomsel. For more than ninety minutes without an interval we relive Brunhilde’s recollections of her life and the political agenda of her time. From her room in an age care facility her story comes alive with credibility, humour, reflection, and satire ‘I take my meals here rather than in the dining room where all the old people are.’ 

Cellist Catherine Finnis performs Alan John’s compositions before Robyn’s entrance and accompanies with discordant cello sounds the backdrop of the actual footage of various political events during the narration.

Dale Ferguson designed the authentic setting of Brunhilde’s room and her convincing outfit. Nigel Levings lit the stage and Jane Rosetto designed the sound. 

A rapturous applause ended the play. I left the theatre contemplating the protagonist and her choices in life. What would you do if…? I also adulate about the courage of all involved in bringing this amazing production to life in Australia, and in particular the resplendent Robyn Nevin, the writer, and the director.

Before moving on to Melbourne the play runs at the Playhouse – QPAC until my birthday, 20 June 2021. 

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