Maggie Smith in A German Life ★★★★★

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The lights go down as an audience raw to their feet with applause. Not one second between a black stage and a highly lit audience standing, screaming praise Dame Maggie Smith.

Twelve years on from what was widely assumed to be her final appearance on the stage, Dame Maggie Smith returns triumphantly. For the 100 minutes of Christopher Hampton’s monologue — a story of an individual who unwittingly becomes complicit in evil — she holds the audience in the palm of her hand. For one hour and forty minutes Maggie Smith tells the story A German Life, and I could have listened to her speak for another hour easily. Time stood still, the most silent audience I have ever heard.

She plays Brunhilde Pomsel, who died in 2017 aged 106 and near the end of her life reflected her careers and choices. During the war she served as a secretary to Joseph Goebbels, and yet remained disengaged from affairs of state. Her recollections are studded with details that illuminate the world she inhabited, while dodging its central toxic truth. A powerful ignorance that still cost her 5 years in prison. This story is not hard to read or hear, it’s simple writing, yet brought to life in a powerful light through Maggie’s honest re-telling of this story.

For all the money I have spent on acting classes and my education I never knew what acting perfection was until I watched this.

Maggie Smith is captivating, honest and completely pure in what she is saying that that story could have been her own. One would not know that was a previously performed and written play if they had not done their research beforehand.

A simple set designed of a house; Smith sits at a table telling the audience a story. Simply beautiful. Not moving, not even standing, Smith holds a pair of glasses that she never puts on. Table full of papers and some other clutter, it is as if we have disturbed her morning for this story. Almost an interview.

The stage slowly moved towards the audience with such subtle grace that I did not notice it until Maggie was almost touching me and I felt physically moved myself. This simple direction technique helps draw the audience into the story, it also allows for the main actor to not have to move.

If you are able to get tickets, this is a once in a life time opportunity to see such a great talent on stage. The Bridge Theatre must be honoured to have a woman of that prestige sitting and chatting to different people every night.

Maggie, you made me life.


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