Birmingham & Tour
MAN TO MAN: Mangred Karge, trans Alexandra Wood
Runs: 1h 20, no interval
Birmingham Rep till 30 September, and touring to 28 October
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate, 29 September 2017
Poerful story of survival against the odds
MAN TO MAN is an extraordinary theatrical event; terrific performance, amazingly inventive scenography and an incredible story. Yet oddly you come away impressed but for the most part unmoved. Strange but just possibly intentional.
MAN TO MAN tells the story of Elle Gericke; Gericke was married in Germany in the 1930s but her crane-drive husband died. In order to survive she took on his identity, operating the harbour-side crane. But with the rise of Hitler came changesandd she was forced into a range of different ‘lives’ (including SA soldier). She became tapped in her assumed identity. This is a story, if nothing else, of survival, of the determination of an individual never to give up.
The story is told as a series of memories that collide with each other; it is roughly chronological, though not always. There is no attempt to flow from one episode into another, they just rush in.
Maggie Bain’s performance is first-class, her relationship with the text complex. Much of the time she story-tells as Ella, though in a wide range of ages, at other times she directly acts out passages, adopting and abandoning characters with ease and clarity.
The episodes are at times tough, at times, gentle. And this aspect is beautifully reflected in Mike Walker’s sound design – heavy, brutal sound effects contrasting with delicate music creating a vulnerability. Scott Graham’s design is a constant journey of delight and surprise, but one wonders if the design is a bit too much to the fore. Bruce Guthrie directs and holds all elements together well in an intriguing, if not entirely satisfying, whole.
Performer: Maggie Bain
Director: Bruce Guthrie
Designer: Scott Graham
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher
Sound Designer: Mike Walker