18 April 2019, The Tablet

Never forget

Never forget

Career-crowning: Dame Maggie Smith as Brunhilde Pomsel in A German Life
Helen Maybanks


A German Life
Bridge Theatre, London

Highlights of the screen career of Dame Maggie Smith include, “Bed Among the Lentils”, her monologue as a vicar’s wife in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, and, in Downton Abbey, her turn as a waspish ancient lady who has lived through too many of her country’s troubles.

Those echoes converge in Smith’s first stage appearance for 12 years, which, at the age of 84, seems sure to be a very late entry on her theatre CV.

A German Life is a 100-minute soliloquy from a 102-year-old woman: Brunhilde Pomsel, who served as secretary to the Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, and, as if mocking the short lifespan of so many victims of the Third Reich, proved almost immortal, dying in 2017, aged 106, on, in another historical irony, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The elderly Pomsel’s extended reminiscences to a German TV documentary have been skilfully edited by Christopher Hampton, British theatre’s leading translator-playwright of European texts, into a solo show of searing force.

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