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Smith will star this spring in the new play by Christopher Hampton, A German Life, to be directed by Jonathan Kent. The production begins previews April 6 ahead of an April 12 opening and is scheduled for a limited five-week run through May 11 at the Bridge Theatre.
The solo drama will feature Smith as Brunhilde Pomsel, whose life spanned the 20th century, making her one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of the Nazi power apparatus. She made ends meet as a secretary in Berlin during the turbulent 1930s, working for various employers including a Jewish insurance broker, the German Broadcasting Corporation, and eventually, Joseph Goebbels.
“I had no idea what was going on,” Pomsel is quoted as saying in the play. “Or very little. No more than most people. So you can’t make me feel guilty.”
After the fall of Berlin, Pomsel was imprisoned by the Soviets in three different concentration camps until 1950.
Hampton drew on testimony Pomsel gave shortly before her death in 2017, when at age 105 she broke her silence to a group of Austrian filmmakers. That encounter resulted in the documentary of the same title, directed by Christian Krones, Olaf Muller, Roland Schrotthofer and Florian Weigensamer.
Smith is a two-time Oscar winner — landing best actress honors in 1970 for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and best supporting actress in 1979 for California Suite. She has won four Primetime Emmy Awards, three of them for Downton Abbey; a lead actress Tony Award in 1990 for Lettice and Lovage; and multiple Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards.
The Bridge is one of London’s most dynamic new commercial theater venues, launched by Nicholas Hytner in 2017 following his long tenure as artistic director of the National Theatre.
Hytner directed Smith in the 2015 feature, The Lady in the Van, based on the Alan Bennett play that she had performed onstage in 1999. Her most recent London theater appearance was in the 2007 West End premiere of Edward Albee’s The Lady from Dubuque. Onscreen, Smith is next slated to reprise her role as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the Downton Abbey feature film, due for release in the fall.
The design team on A German Life includes sets by Anna Fleischle, lighting by Jon Clark and sound by Paul Groothuis.
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