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Man to Man

Margaret Ann Bain in Man to Man. Photo: Boris Mitkov

When her husband dies in pre-war Germany, a woman disguises herself and takes over his identity, at first just to keep his job, but as the century progresses because in every period it is easier for a man to get by than a woman.

Manfred Karge’s play, here adapted and brought up to date – or at least past the fall of communism – by Alexandra Wood, is thus both an individual story of survival and a social history of 20-century Germany.

Alone onstage, Margaret Ann Bain gives a bravura performance as the woman stifling, fighting and perhaps even losing her female identity as she travels from youth to a crotchety old curmudgeon.

But the real power of this revival comes in the production, particularly the set design of Richard Kent and lighting by Rick Fisher, that change the atmosphere and seem to physically reshape the stage through darkness and shadows, to meet the needs of each scene and reflect the shadowy existence of Ella/Max.

Video projections by Andrzej Goulding are used sparingly but tellingly, as when Ella briefly gives way to her longing for a child and casts a shadow of mother and babe. As strong as Bain’s performance is, it is the visual images of the play that will linger.

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German play of a woman living as a man places an impressive performance in an even more impressive visual production