One of the good things about the Fringe is that the small scale of most of its venues lead to a sort of intimacy in performance that you get almost nowhere else. This means that small, one person shows can be massively successful. Unfortunately however, while
For as good as Mann’s performance is, it’s drowned out by the absolutely massive size of this venue and the emptiness of the stage.
I Am My Own Wife is the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, one of the most extraordinary historical characters you could imagine. Born Lothar Berfelde, Charlotte survived two notoriously homophobic regimes – the Nazi regime and the East German Socialist Republic – as a transgendered woman. Her story is genius and brilliant, but the conceit of the script is that Charlotte’s actor plays every member of her cast of extraordinary characters. The writer, the SS officers, Charlotte’s confidant Albert, her father, her aunt; one actor performs the whole cast. One person shows demand high quality acting and this is no exception: Steven Mann is fantastic. The way he shifts his physicality for each personality is extraordinary, going from small and slight as Charlotte to being intimidating and powerful as a Stasi officer. Mann’s range here shines, as he almost effortlessly slides between personalities. It’s worth going to see the show for him alone.
But for as good as Mann’s performance is, it’s drowned out by the absolutely massive size of this venue and the emptiness of the stage. There’s an almost absurd amount of empty space in the venue, and because the set itself is so minimalistic, it feels even more empty. And this takes away a lot of intimacy which could have made this show even better. And while this emptiness does allow for some impressive technical moments, they are too few and far between to make up for the lack of everything else. Beyond that there are moments where the pace of the show tends to drag, and moments where the flow of scenes could be improved. And these moments, along with the lack of intimacy, keep this show just shy of excellent.