Whilst August is well known across the UK as the month of the Edinburgh Fringe, but whilst Scotland is partying every night for a month, the Camden Fringe is also on. I was out of the country for a good third of the month so I’ve been playing catchup ever since. To the point where until I didn’t see a Camden Fringe show until the 18th. Two days ago. The German Girls reveals a side to the Nazi occupation of Europe that I’d never considered before – the lives of those in Copenhagen.
Denmark was neutral in World War II, but in April 1940 the Nazis occupied the country. And due to the propaganda, initially it was accepted. As the occupation continued, the Nazis were met with resistance from the Danes. Like most Brits, director Michelle Payne was unaware of what actually happened in Denmark during this occupation, but it is part of playwright’s Christina Tranholm cultural identity.
The German Girls is a one act play, focusing on four women working in a launderette at the time of the occupation. Not only does this production look into the lives of these women just prior to the invasion, but it explores the consequences for the Danish women who engaged in relationships with those in the Wehrmacht (the German defence force).
In particular, th piece shines a spotlight on Ingrid (played by playwright, Tranholm), who becomes involved with Matthias (Liam Harkins), a young soldier who is part of the Wehrmacht. Both characters don’t want to be associated with either side of the occupation and desire neutrality, but when one of you is a member of an occupied state and the other is wearing a swastika people will form very strong opinions on your relationship.
Sara Hoopell, Rachel Laboucarie and Bryony McCarthy play Berit, Marie and Anna respectively, Ingrid’s friends who have to deal with her so-called betrayal by getting involved with the enemy. George Whitehead’s portrayal of Arne provides comic relief at well-worked places. However, Whitehead’s humour was the only areas of comedy that worked. Other jokes were not received so well, falling flat leaving the book a little rough.
The final ten minutes or so were heart wrenching, with Ingrid being reprimanded for her activity with the enemy. The idea of understanding that something unforgivable was carried out, but finding it so difficult to know where the boundaries are since unwritten rules are easy to break.
The German Girls is able to spark conversation surrounding a history that many audience members will be unaware of. I’m definitely interested to see this production develop as I was left eager to learn more about the lives of The German Girls.