Doug Wright’s play I Am My Own Wife, at fortyfivedownstairs for Midsumma, is a most remarkable piece. Its story twists and turns and keeps the audience guessing, it has a superbly unreliable narrator, and it looks at issues of identity, persecution and betrayal.
Ben Gerrard plays Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, an elegant and charming 65-year-old German transgender woman who runs a small museum and who has survived the Nazis and the Communists. In the early 1990s, Charlotte tells her story to the playwright (whom Gerrard also plays, as well as all the other roles) and seems to have a brilliant tale that will make a wonderful work of theatre. But doubts as to her authenticity gradually creep in and we realise she is not all she seems.
I loved this play. Gerrard’s subtle, sly and moving performance and the simple but ingenious staging, with a backdrop of censored Stasi files and sparse, deceptively simple furniture (design by Caroline Comino, lighting by Hugh Hamilton, sound by Nate Edmondson), combine to create an engrossing experience.
Knowing that the play is based on a real person, and hearing her voice and that of Wright at the very end, left me wanting to know more about this astonishing woman. Afterwards, my friends and I found ourselves animatedly discussing the issues and puzzles of the play. It’s a terrific piece.