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POSTED: 26 AUGUST 2010

A voice for the forgotten women of war

In the intimate surrounds of Melbourne’s  Tower Theatre, uber-talented rising star Meredith Penman will unveil a disturbing personal wartime account in A Woman in Berlin.

Ten days before Hitler’s suicide, an unnamed woman holed up in a Berlin air-raid shelter starts a diary.

Her two exercise books and a clothbound notebook form one of the most shocking and powerful accounts of women in wartime.

Unflinchingly, she recounts the fate she shares with the women around her, not just in terms of the hunger, cold and desperation, but the ever-present threat of the victors: “Being conquered means having salt rubbed in your wounds.”

Published anonymously in 1954 as Eine Frau in Berlin, this frank account of the Red Army’s occupation shocked German readers, unwilling at the time to acknowledge the rape of more than 100,000 women in that city alone.

More than half a century later and now widely translated, the gallows humour and profound humanity of A Woman In Berlin gives voice to the forgotten women of war.

Whilst the protagonist’s desperation is palpable, the account is charged by stunning intellectual honesty and uncommon powers of observation.

First performed at Sydney’s Old Fitzroy Hotel last year, this visually elegant production directed by Janice Muller occupies a contemporary war museum setting, creating narrowed distinctions between the past and the present.

Powerfully portrayed by rising star Meredith Penman (Richard III, A Dream Play), A Woman In Berlin is an emotionally taut stage adaptation.

A Woman In Berlin will be performed by Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre in the CUB Malthouse, Southbank, from 16–28 November.

*Based on media release issued by Malthouse Theatre.

Meredith Penman in A Woman in Berlin ... an emotionally taut stage adaptation. Image credit: Andy Baker.