Linck and Mülhahn – Hampstead Theatre, London

Reviewer: Jamie Barnes

Writer: Ruby Thomas

Director: Owen Horsley

With a witty and farcical take on an unconventional love story, Linck and Mülhahn brings life and joy into a tale filled with pain and alienation. Gender, sexuality, and history are blended together with consideration and effort to tell a story that finds relevance in the modern world.

Linck and Mülhahn is a fictionalised story of forbidden love based on historical events in 18th century Prussia. When soldier Anastasius Linck(Maggie Bain) is forced to desert his regiment, he sets up a new life as a clothmaker, where he encounters the passionate and rebellious Catharina Mülhahn(Helena Wilson). The couple decide to marry, but soon their life together is threatened when Catharina’s disapproving mother(Lucy Black) reveals that Linck was born female, resulting in a trial against the couple for sodomy.

The play is well written and, although it takes a few scenes to settle into its rhythm, the modern dialogue and youthful characterisation of the story emphasise the relevance of this story in today’s society. Funny from the outset, the triviality and humour is equally balanced with moments of true emotion and poignant reflection of hardships and suffering.

The lightheartedness of Act One explores the happy side to Linck and Mülhahn’s relationship. An older Catharina(Marty Cruickshank) tells the tale with sentimental pathos, following Linck and her younger self from their first meeting through to their married life, which is then disrupted by Catharina’s mother.

A trial follows in Act Two, with both title characters being tried for sodomy, and Linck with an additional charge of desertment. Throughout the trial, questions are raised about the nature of the relationship, and the extent to which Mülhahn and her mother knew about Linck’s identity. Most heavily discussed is the sentence which should be passed on Linck, debating whether he should receive the sentence for men or women, bringing attention to the significance of this historical case and its relevance to the modern world. The final beat of the show is one of hope, and challenges the audience to apply the story to the world they live in.

Bain and Wilson take charge of their characters with charismatic grace, each being allowed their moments to shine as individuals and as a couple, with dialogue flowing between the two with ease. As Catharina’s mother, Lucy Black conveys the duality of the cynic and the loving parent with finesse, and delivers a compelling performance as the antagonist, convincing herself of her actions through her love for her daughter.

Staged on a revolve, the set is a simplistic white stage tower which is transformed into dance halls, shops, and houses through considered set dressing. Simon Wells’ design is perfectly complemented by Matt Daw’s lighting design, which utilises backlighting to create silhouetted scenes and transitions.

Linck and Mülhahn very occasionally misses the mark, but it is difficult to ignore the emotional and historical impact of the characters and their story. The cast, direction, and design consolidate into a truly poignant and effective performance.

Runs until 4 March 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Expressive, emotional, effective

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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