Director: Joe Lui
Original Screenplay: Doug Wright
Cast: Brendan Hanson
I Am My Own Wife is a captivating and entertaining larger than life story about Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, who, as a transvestite, lived under two of history’s most brutal regimes- Nazi Germany and the communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and manage to survive it all through to the 21st century, long after the country’s reunification.
On its own, it’s already amazing, and that’s the essence of the tale that holds the whole thing together, regardless of how you may feel about gender politics- which whilst of some import, but doesn't entirely focus around it. Brendan Hanson does an impressive 36 different characters, from the eponymous subject, to that of the playwright, and of other minor roles, switching from one (mildly exaggerated) accent to another without catching a breath- whether or not you like that form of theatre- there’s no denying effort and talent here.
The staging of the play is rather economical, using a single stage to reproduce the feeling of different places, but the overall mood is intimate, fitting with the subject matter, and really engaging the audience with the core story. Narrative wise, everything feels compact, no loose and superfluous ends left hanging, and ultimately presents the eponymous person as a human being with all their virtues and flaws, and the more unsavoury parts of von Mahlsdorf’s history are highlighted. Whilst it’s a good play and well presented, it just meets about the bar of good, not anything special or particularly memorable- with the exception of Brendan’s performance.
On a tangential note, the play also serves as a nice ‘101’ class to modern German history, from the Third Reich to the days of the communist GDR and a glimpse of the tumultuous, uncertain years after the reunification- it offers a decent enough summary, putting in relevant details and leaving out ones that aren’t. It does rely on a bit of the audience’s knowledge of life under both regimes to fully appreciate the tale though.
Nonetheless if you’re looking for a warm, uplifting, inspiring story, on a night out in the city with not much else to do, than I Am My Own Wife will be right up the alley.
I Am My Own Wife runs until Sunday 29 October.