dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Cross-dressing drama is microcosm of 20th century Germany
Loosely based on a true story, Man to Man tells the story of Ella Gericke who, on the death of her husband Max, took on his guise to survive.
Portrayed through a series of flashbacks in roughly chronological order, Man to Man also tells the story of 20th century Germany from 1930's depression, through Nazism, the Soviet victory, the division of the country and the reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Maggie Bain is a force of energy as Ella in disguise as Max, not only switching between male and female but also taking on other characters including German soldiers, farm hands and block wardens. On stage for the full 75 minutes of the production, Bain not only swaps sex she also masters a range of different accents and gaits in these personas.
Directed by Bruce Guthrie and Scott Graham, this Wales Millennium Centre production is highly imaginative. Designed by Richard Kent, Ella's one-room apartment doubles for every other location with every bit of its space being utilised at different points of the show. It's a very physical production with huge demands on Bain who is one-moment climbing walls, the next swinging from a window and another disappearing under the floorboards.
Andrzej Goulding's projection design greatly helps with changing the mood and the sets with film creating different seasons, places and backgrounds, even the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Written by German author Manfred Karge and translated by Alexandra Wood, Man to Man is a hugely lyrical and poetic piece of drama. At times, the language is just sublime as Ella recreates her different worlds through words.
There's plenty to recommend this production of Man to Man, which has been a big success at Edinburgh Fringe. It's intelligent, thought-provoking, brilliantly acted and packed with creativity.
On stage at Birmingham Rep's Studio until September 30, it also plays Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool before touring to the USA. See mantomantheplay.com for more information.