Writer: Manfred Karge
Adaptor: Alexandra Wood
Director: Bruce Guthrie
Reviewer: Denis Lennon
The production team at Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) are right on time with their new in-house production of Man to Man. In our time, where femininity is no longer reserved for the female and with blurred lines around what it is to be a man, the notion of gender identity, and its fluidity, is a conversation that is making its way out of the dark depths of the underworld. With this thought provoking production the WMC have boldly, and admirably, brought this taboo out into the light of day.
Originally written in German as Jacke Wie Hoseby Manfred Karge, Man to Man tells the story of Ella, a German woman who takes on the identity of her recently deceased husband Max, just as Hitler and the Nazi Party rise to power. What translator Alexandra Wood has formulated here is a rich, albeit sometimes heavy, text that is full of imagery and fervent language, which keeps the audience on their toes throughout.
However, it is the performance of Margaret Ann Bain that excites me the most about this production. Her work, with director Bruce Guthrie and movement director Scott Graham, on physical composition and her transitions through the characters that she depicts are superb. This is close to a master class in the art of storytelling.
Various effects, through the use of multimedia projected onto a magnificently bleak set (Richard Kent), underscore Bain’s virtuoso performance. Sadly, this doesn’t always work. There are times in this production where we have so many theatre languages speaking to us all at once that it is difficult know what to focus on. On a few occasions we have imagery given through the beautiful poetics in the text and then we are shown a picture that depicts the same. I question if the audience need this information twice, albeit in a different, equally beautiful form.
That being said, what WMC, with Guthrie and Graham at the steering wheel, have created is something that is thought provoking and beautiful. This is no mean feat considering WMC, as an in-house production company, are in their infancy. My biggest kudos, however, goes to Bain. Her ability to make an all but empty stage feel populated with a variety of colourful characters, ranging from bulging bravado to pathetic widow, is worth the journey alone.
Runs until 27th March 2015 | Photo: Polly Thomas