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Brighton Fringe 2008

The Heimkerher-Coming Home

Antje Pappenburg



Low Down

A journey into her family history forces a young German woman to face up some disturbing home truths.


It is difficult to maintain an objective critical stance on a piece of theatre that has so clearly come from the heart. So seeing this autobiographical play recounting Antje Papenburg’s experience of dealing with the impending death of her grandfather, in the wake of revelations detailing his involvement with the Nazis, created an awkward tension for me as a reviewer. 

The Heimkerher was steeped in emotion, and seemed to be operating as an almost cathartic experience for Papenburg. We watch her scrabble around her family’s past, searching for explanations and motives, to aid her in her own search for identity and a semblance of moral certainty. As well as engaging the emotions she succeeded in providing an interesting and sophisticated critique on the subjectivity of history, cultural amnesia and their affects on her own family’s relationships.

As an actress Papenburg succeeded in maintaining the sympathy of the audience and was an effective storyteller. However, the writing style was at times clunky to the ear and the performance was too tentative and occasionally a little scrappy. These production issues only slightly detracted from the moments of genuine pathos and insight achieved by the play. This was the world premiere of The Heimkerher and with a little refinement and polish this piece could ignite theatrically in the way that it does thematically.

It is perhaps a little early in the festival to be handing out plaudits, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more bold and challenging piece of original work this May, especially when you consider that this is Papenburg’s first play. Hugely promising.


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