I am My Own Wife is a one hander recounting the true story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German antiquarian who lived through the Nazi occupation and communist Germany as a openly transgender woman.
From being held at gunpoint and a confused officer asking if she was a boy or girl. “Boy or girl what does it matter? Dead is dead”, to visiting her long-time companion in prison, Charlotte never did have an ordinary life.
Produced by Unusual Theatre as their debut production, they are taking this and A Different Way Home in rep to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Artistic Director Alistair Lindsay has a background in lighting and sound design and so it was fitting that the simple set was brought to life and transformed over and over by a clever technical team.
Steven Mann was electric as protagonist Charlotte. His intense vulnerability and quiet dignity in the face of no-doubt countless untold hardships was incredibly poignant. Playing up to forty roles throughout the show he handled his stage masterfully.
Directed by Val Collins, The dichotomy of language as the German flowed into English and back again seamlessly was a delight to hear and such was the juxtaposition between the many characters on stage that one could pass Mann on the street directly after seeing the show and be none the wiser.
The play has a curiously modern feel to it. Perhaps because this is still a hotly talked about topic. Knowing from a young age she had been born into the wrong body, Charlotte did not hide away from who she was. At age fourteen, whilst watching her mother hand her stockings on the line she was told she must soon stop this dress up and find a wife. Charlotte proudly declared “I am my own wife”. Nearly a century on, Charlotte’s struggles with acceptance are still felt keenly across the globe and it is for this reason this play is not just entertaining, but important to watch.
Overall it was a stunningly quiet production and a fantastic debut by Unusual Theatre. The audience will laugh, will cry, will learn, but will ultimately leave the theatre with an awful lot to think about.