Fringe 2009, BATS Theatre
Feb 26-March 3 | Reviewed by Melody Nixon

IT’S NOT MUCH to ask of a theatre piece that it stimulate your imagination. In order to do this it might be suggestive, but add substance and story to that suggestion. Wolf’s Lair, by accomplished young director Willem Wassenaar and sterling performer Sophie Roberts, gives us plenty of suggestion, and plenty of symbolism, but fails to have a cohesive, interesting and worthwhile narrative to justify its flakiness. The unfortunate effect is that, in the end, Wolf’s Lair comes across as a whole lot of hollow pontification.

We are told that Traudl Junge (Sophie Roberts), Hitler’s “last secretary,” doesn’t “remember anything” and that her life was “unspectacular.” The programme preempts that Wolf’s Lair is a portrait of an “ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances.” Sadly those extraordinary circumstances are never fully revealed to us, at least not in a way we might emotionally connect with. Instead, they are hinted just barely at by an array of vague actions and props: dimly discernable glass vials, flung playing cards, and intermittent stomping.

We are given view to the myriad awful things that must have happened during the last days of Hitler’s operation only in short, ambiguous snippets of loud recorded noise and incomprehensible shouting. We are told many things by Traudl that should affect us – she describes babies being killed by their mother, Eva Frau’s last pitiful dress up – but without the tools (namely story – spoken or otherwise) to connect with those things emotionally they seem largely meaningless.

Traudl’s seminar line: “I stayed with him because I felt protected in the Wolf’s Lair,”
reveals what really is the heart of the show. Her character just does not get any deeper than that. What’s frustrating is that this revelation comes only half way through the show, and we are forced to sit through further exploration of the same topic which adds nothing to our experience. Even the final, trembling shouting of Adolf Hitler’s name in the last scene cannot prompt us from our stasis. Perhaps the character could be fictionalised more, to make her interesting, if the substance is not there in history?

Despite the material, Sophie Roberts’ performance as Traudl is stunning; her acting and movements very much worth paying attention to. Even greater the tragedy then, that the depth and meaning of her performance is just never fully revealed to us, and Wolf’s Lair leaves us only with the bitter aftertaste of too much self-indulgent symbolism.