An intimate and evocative performance
The set design of the piece was very simplistic but this reflected the barrenness of the bunker in which the girls were sent to work. The play features a splintered chronology, jumping back and forth in the timeline to present a contrast between the hopeful optimism at the start of the war and the decline of faith near the end. We could have used a greater distinction between these time jumps as it could sometimes be quite difficult to follow.
Amy Walpole played the prudish and dedicated Gretel and delivered an appropriately quiet, unassuming character but it was Ilse, as played by Ruth Louis, who was the much more interesting character. Louis presented Ilse’s journey from the casual, young gossip revelling in the joy of national pride to the impassioned Nazi who desperately wanted to cling on to German pride as the inevitable end became clear and Hitler’s closest officers began to resign. Ilse shows us how the German propaganda brainwashed its citizens and she increasingly becomes obsessed with Hitler, not only as a leader but romantically too. She is so staunchly protective of the German patriotism that it breaks down her relationships, morality and mental health – all effectively portrayed by Louis.
It is an interesting thing to consider what with the perspective on WWII often seeming one-sided with the view that all Nazis were evil. In fact, many were clueless and manipulated parties who only realised the morality of their actions when they were in too deep. This would have been the case for many Germans, manipulated in the beginning with propaganda promising victory and national pride to attract support, then being left with no option but to continue presenting themselves as Nazis or be killed. Bunker Girls is an intimate and evocative performance from the small, but talented, cast.