'A German Life' Review
Updated: Aug 13, 2019
Bridge Theatre, London
Twelve years since her supposed final appearance, Dame Maggie Smith returns to the stage alone with an intensely captivating performance.
‘A German Life’ is a new play by Christopher Hampton that presents the testimony of Brunhilde Pomsel, aged 105, as an enthralling monologue. The play tells the story of Pomsel, a seemingly oblivious eyewitness in the Nazi propaganda machine, who served as a secretary to Joseph Goebbels during the 1940s. Hampton’s script depicts the secretary’s testimony while relishing in her enigmaticness. Throughout she recalls vivid details from her past yet she juxtaposingly pleads to the audience about her unwitting compliance to the Nazis’ atrocities.
Smith’s performance kept me on the edge of my seat and completely engaged. Yet, Jonathan Kent’s hyper-naturalistic production is consistently passive as Maggie Smith delivers a stellar performance but never moves from her chair. There is some movement in this production, Anna Fleischle’s Munich apartment set creeps forward towards the audience while Pomsel takes us deeper into her story and into her confidence.
This production has arrived with perfect timing. It serves as both a reflection on the past and warning for the future. There is an implied relevance imbedded within, one that is directly related to our society’s current state. The dominance of right-wing populists are on the rise once again and the facts are obvious enough. Maggie Smith used her final performance as a statement and we should all be listening.