The Stables Theatre recently staged Bunker Girls – set in Berlin in 1945. Francis Saunders watched the opening and closing performances on Wednesday 19th and Saturday 22nd May. 

This was the first time I’d visited the theatre since the pandemic and, to be honest, I was a little hesitant about how the restrictions would be handled. 

But Neil Sellman, the Theatre Director, had clearly done his research and put together a social distancing plan that inspired confidence – all the volunteers were well versed in the protocol, keeping everyone safe and ensuring they felt comfortable while inside the theatre. 

CREDIT: Peter Mould

Written by Michael Punter and directed by Adrian Bowd, the play centres around two of Hitler’s secretaries whose loyalty is tested as Germany collapses and the Red army moves in. They wait in the bunker with
the atmosphere becoming increasingly claustrophobic. I watched it with an open mind – I had grown up with stories of World War 2 from my father, a decorated British paratrooper, and I was transported back to the time of 1945 that he had spoken so much about.

Bertie Hustwayte played Gretel and brought a dynamic approach to her character which ensured the audience would constantly be questioning whether she had succumbed to Hitler’s advances. Jackie Eichler played Ilse. 

The timing between the pair on stage was impeccable – Hustwayte brings the complex character of Gretel to life as she questions herself about her feelings for Hitler. Eichler, on the other hand, captures an air of vulnerability and innocence that gives an insight into Ilse’s more naive character and helps you understand why these particular young women were picked by Hitler to accompany him in his bunker. 

CREDIT: Peter Mould

The actors had a chemistry that at times had the audience laughing uncontrollably – at just the right moments. Although the play was set in 1945 in a bunker, I couldn’t help noting the relevance to today’s suppression of women within society whether in gaslighted relationships or workplace environments. 

It was truly wonderful to watch a play that had me questioning and making references to our current environment – fabulous writing, exceptional directing and impressive acting that was, for me, the icing on the cake. I sat and watched what I would call a true masterpiece.

The Stables clearly have their act together to enable the audience’s safety and  comfort. Hats off to Neil Sellman and the team at the Stables Theatre. If you are thinking of venturing back to live theatre, then do so – you will be in safe hands. 

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