FRINGE 2013: Theatre – I Am My Own Wife – Bakehouse Theatre – 4K

With the prejudiced and homophobic views of both the Nazi and Communist regimes in Germany in the 20th century, the fact that transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (born Lothar Berfelde in 1928) not only survived but apparently managed to flourish, seems remarkable. I Am My Own Wife follows American playwright Doug Wright as he travels to Mahlsdorf shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to interview Charlotte, who now runs a private museum, about her amazing life. He discovers a character that has many tales to tell – though the accuracy of the stories is not always certain and it’s down to Wright to root out the truth.

With over thirty characters making appearances at some point, and often having rapid-fire conversations with one another, this show is a big ask for a single performer. Charles Mayer steps up to the task admirably, though he does seem a little hesitant with his lines at times, which means that the action doesn’t flow quite as smoothly as it should. Mayer does well, under the direction of Craig Behenna, to differentiate between all of these characters through adjustments in accents and clearly defined body language. The scene in which he jumps from the character of one international journalist to another and another and another, all in a series of grabs lasting no more than a few seconds, shows off his skill particularly effectively.

With plays like this, which tell the story of the play itself being written, it’s difficult to know exactly how much is fact and how much poetic license. Regardless, it’s all very interesting. Combining the historical impact of life during World War II and the Cold War, with the beauty of antiques, and the story of one person’s struggle to be accepted for who they are, this is an engaging piece of theatre that hits home on both intellectual and emotional levels.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

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