Actor April Albert has been working with the life of Hildegard Knef for several years. And while the story of a post-war German singer might suggest, even insist, on being cabaret – this avante garde production is so much more.
Albert tells the story of Knef from 1989, around the fall of the Berlin Wall, and moves backwards – towards a climax that happens far too close to the beginning of her story. Or so Knef laments.
It’s enough that in the twilight of her career she must make films with David Hasselhof and Linda Blair, the closer she gets to her birth and the higher she rises, the closer she comes to the war. The closer to memories and nightmares of Hitler.
Under the strong direction of Rachel Baring, the life of Knef is laid out before us – and this woman who has seen so much in Germany, talks of herself as being like the city of Berlin. Even the simple title of this show, Hildegard/Knef, underlines this notion of a woman divided; a woman confident in her talents but struggling with the circumstances of her early career. And by telling the story backwards, Knef is saving herself from the inevitable decay of age.
This is a striking show with evocative projections of Berlin, layered over a stark set, offset by a confident central performance by Albert. Hildegard Knef tells us that she talks and sings because she could never conquer silence. But in the end, after our applause has ended, we and she are confronted by an inevitable silence. And we must leave her. Alone.