Surviving Nazi and Communist Germany was hard enough, let alone as a transvestite, but Charlotte von Mahlsdorf did it to acclaim. I Am My Own Wife is a gripping re-enactment of von Mahlsdorf’s life told through the eyes of the man who interviewed her, playwright Doug Wright.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award, it’s easy to see why this play is so fascinating. I Am My Own Wife preserves a snapshot of history whose central figure was a hero and an outlaw on the small stage of the world but on the main stage of her life and of those around her.
In this Sydney production at The Old Fitz Theatre we see a faithful re-telling delivered with reverence and joyful animation from actor Ben Gerrard and director Shaun Rennie. The mood is somber but there is much life and light to Gerrard’s von Mahlsdorf, which has the audience warming immediately to this larger-than-life character.
It’s the moments of quiet solitude and reflection, though, that are most gripping. Beneath an exuberant, confident exterior lays a terrifically strong woman who artfully navigated not only war but the everyday dealings with those who vilified her.
We don’t see a transvestite on stage, we see a human whose gender preference is not the most interesting thing about them. Credit goes to Wright’s brilliant writing and this production’s reverent treatment of the play.
Special mention to Caroline Comino’s set design, whose intricacy and attention to detail delights, particularly with the kid-like building blocks that bring the city of Berlin alive right from the dining room table (literally). A beautiful production telling a special, moving story. Go see it.
I Am My Own Wife
Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo
Performance: Thursday 19 November 2015
Season continues to 5 December 2015
For more information, visit: www.oldfitztheatre.com for details.
Image: Ben Gerrard in I Am My Own Wife – photo by Rupert Reid
Review: Maryann Wright
Maryann Wright is a performer and writer. She has a Diploma of Musical Theatre from Brent Street and a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from The University of Sydney. Recent performance credits include: EIGHT, Subject To Change, Heart of a Dog (Australian premiere), Carrie (Squabbalogic) and Urinetown (Brent Street). Journalism credits include: www.artshub.com.au, The Guardian, news.com.au and Girlfriend Magazine. www.maryannwright.com.au