Because of coronavirus, 2021 was not the busiest year for many actors. But Robyn Nevin had a major project: she was working on the Australian premiere of Christopher Hampton’s A German Life.
“I spent most of the year learning the 10,000 lines for this particular play,” she says.
Nevin, 78, gave up theatre acting several years ago to focus on less strenuous screen work: her last play was the 2016 Sydney Theatre Company production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.
A few years ago, she became aware of A German Life, a one-woman play that premiered in London in 2019 with Maggie Smith.
When Nevin read it she knew she had to play Brunhilde Pomsel (1911-2017), a personal secretary to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. She would be the only actor on stage for 90 minutes with a huge number of lines to remember and would speak with a German accent.
Nevin found A German Life powerful both as a psychological character study and as a piece of storytelling.
She took it to opera, theatre and film director Neil Armfield and theatrical producer John Frost, who acquired the Australian rights. The result was a well-received production at this year’s Adelaide Festival that is now going on tour.
“This is a kind of coming back for me,” Nevin says.
Despite her absence for several years from the stage and the challenges the play poses, “I feel like I’m coming home, in a sense.”
Hampton compiled the work from the testimony of the 103-year-old Pomsel for a 2014 documentary, also called A German Life.