The Adelaide Festival program describes her, accurately, as ‘our finest stage performer’. Robyn Nevin is appearing there (2 Feb-14 Mar) in A German Life, a one-hander by Christopher Hampton about Brunhilde Pomsel, secretary to Joseph Goebbels.
A German Life is based on interviews Pomsel gave to Austrian television when she was 103. She had been at the centre of events almost by chance. An excellent shorthand typist, her job at the national broadcaster led to appointment to the Nazi propaganda operation. She emerged from the rubble of the aftermath apparently with her apolitical naivety intact.
This is not entirely unfamiliar territory for Christopher Hampton. In 1982 he made a stage adaptation of the novel by George Steiner, The Portage to San Cristobel of AH which imagined Hitler discovered in South America by Israeli Nazi hunters 30 years after the war. At the Sydney Theatre Company we mounted a production of it in the mid-80s. It was misunderstood as giving Hitler an opportunity to justify himself and caused distress on that basis. It is risky terrain.
Robyn Nevin is one of the few actors with the range and subtlety to carry a one-hander. In 2008 she performed A Year of Magical Thinking, the stage adaption by Joan Didion for one actor of her exploration of her grief at the death of her husband; a performance both fascinating and moving. Robyn Nevin and director Neil Armfield are perfectly paired for this challenge.
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