Review: Man To Man, Weston Studio.

A sense of self and individual identity is something that all of us take for granted. But what would happen if this was suddenly taken away? In the fight for survival, working class widow Ella Gericke is forced to adopt her husband’s identity during Nazi Germany in this captivating piece of modern theatre, Man To Man. The audience are transported through the 20th century from the perspective of couple Ella and Max, witnessing notable events such as the rise of the Nazi Party and the fall of the Berlin Wall. A spectacular solo performance from Margaret Ann Bain is reinforced by the inventive use of lighting, sound and visual effects to provide an almost hypnotic seventy minutes.

 The story, translated by Alexandra Wood from the German play “Jacke Wie Hose” is part of the Women of the World Festival 2015, and provides the audience with food for thought as to the role that women have played throughout history. Ella is unable to survive alone as a woman once she has lost her husband due to men being considered as stronger, more self-sufficient and more able to endure harsher times. The play, however, contradicts this stereotypical view by following Ella’s journey presenting her as this strong, wilful ideal who has a hunger and fervent ambition to succeed. The woman who was once referred to by her husband as “Snow White”, the embodiment of femininity, fragility and beauty, is instead thrust into the masculine world of alcohol, smoking and gambling which is allied with a willingness to succeed.

A very impressing element to Man To Man is undoubtedly the use of staging and movement which is only complimented by the intimate surroundings of Wales Millennium Centre’s Weston Studio. The physicality of the production sees Bain climbing up walls and hanging off window ledges. Her continuous circling of the stage enchanted the audience, leaving them mesmerised from the offset. The set can only be described as minimalist and threadbare purposely creating a claustrophobic and echoing atmosphere mirroring the psychological state of Ella, who is alone, repressed and unable to reveal her true identity. The intimate setting makes for an almost unsettling atmosphere at times as Ella passionately battles with her own demons and mental state.

Bruce Guthrie and his team have worked wonders to provide a deeply personal yet bold and enthralling adaptation which is sure to strike a chord with all who manage to capture this masterpiece.

Reviewed by Alice Dent.

Photo credit: Polly Thomas.
Photo credit: Polly Thomas.
Photo credit: Polly Thomas.

Man To Man runs from 19 Mar – 27 March 2015 at Weston Studio, WMC.

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