BEAUTIFUL, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THEATRE
NZ Fringe Festival 09|
Devised by Sophie Roberts and Willem Wassenaar
Directed by Willem Wassenaar
Performed by Sophie Roberts
at The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 26 Feb 2009 to 7 Mar 2009
Reviewed by Candice Lewis, 27 Aug 2009
The lone figure of Traudl Junge (Sophie Roberts) is hunched in a plain chair, and the floor sparkles with a seaweed sea of brown tape. Piles of large, old style reels sit on the floor, and to her left is a clunky old recording device. She wears a flawless, well-cut black dress, bends down and presses play, sharing the quiet voice of her youth.
These recordings allow both aspects of Junge to be interwoven: the young woman who longed to be a ballerina; the mature one struggling with regret and sadness at being Adolf Hitler's personal secretary.
Robert's performance focuses all my attention. She is a young, beautiful innocent just wanting to have an adventure in Berlin, then an arrogant, worn down woman of the world haunted by a corpse-littered past. She is bright and blank, then rippling with pain and regret, her face conjuring up members of Hitler's inner circle with a mixture of love and horror.
I feel how impressed she is by the power, wealth and privileges of her surroundings, how kind her boss is to her, perhaps an indication of her longing for a tangible father figure. I am not repelled by her; her admissions loosen the face-tightening mask, and as it drops we find ourselves.
I do not mean that this somehow excuses Junge, but I do think it casts light on our motivations and fragile humanity. Devised by Willem Wassenaar and Sophie Roberts, it is unquestionably beautiful, thought-provoking theatre.
Wassenaar also directs, and obviously knows what he's doing. Roberts movements seesaw between grace and grief-stricken robot. In doing so we are always reminded of her missed opportunities, to be a dancer, or perhaps a heroine.
The cast and crew of this Almost A Bird Theatre Collective production have done an amazing job. The sound design (Thomas Press), lighting and sound operation (Sam Bunkall), and costume construction (Rebekah Coburn) are all flawless.
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Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);
Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
Laurie Atkinson (2) (The Dominion Post);
Uther Dean (Salient);