Life must be hard if you want to be a different gender. Executed for Sodomy is the true story of Caterina Linck, a man in all but body, who tried to wed a woman in Eighteenth Century Prussia for which she was put to death. Born into an age where lesbianism wasn't understood or tolerated in the slightest, she is accused of 'choosing her sex when most convenient' and presenting a danger to society.
Thanks to a sharp script and vibrant staging we flick between her trial and prior events to allow the story to unfold. Key to success is its maturity in allowing the audience to make its own mind up about the issues it discusses. Obviously it deplores her execution, yet this is achieved with great subtlety. We aren't forced to buy into an agenda and are allowed to draw our own conclusions from the sad tale with serves to reinforce its message. Still, for those looking for some relevant political debate there is fuel-a-plenty to be found within the story, mostly pertaining to the religious aspects of homosexual relations.
Although there were only three people in the cast it felt like there are more thanks to the energy of the performances and smooth transitions from Linck's trial to the flashbacks of her past. There isn't a weak link on stage and I particularly enjoyed Alice Bell as Linck's suspicious mother in law. Fanni Compton as Linck delivers a strong performance, showing her to be a frustrated, defensive yet brave heroine. Parts that might have been grotesque weren't and the variety of accents from Bell and Victoria Jones was most impressive.
There are flaws, however. The script lends itself to a pace which was missing from the second half, so when the love story begins in earnest it isn't all that beautiful. The emotion was occasionally forced and I found myself feeling sorry for Linck because she lost her freedom more than anything else. In the courtroom scenes, the actors are constantly falling out of the light which really irritated me; this needs to be addressed if possible because we lose the tension that those scenes depend on. There are also aspects where things are not clear, such as the nature of the mother in law's relationship with her daughter.
Nonetheless this is an excellent play. Executed for Sodomy questions what it is to be yourself and tells us that sometimes 'oneself' cannot be contained. You don’t need to be at all political to enjoy it and it is a safe bet if you are in search of thought provoking drama.