Park Theatre, London
Written by Manfred Karge
Translated by Anthony Vivis
Directed by Tilly Branson
Man To Man is a extraordinary perspective on latter day Germany. It is a tale of the country through the prism of Max Gericke, or rather Gericke's widow Ella. When Max dies early on, Ella concludes that the only way for her to survive the desperate economic times is to suppress the news of his death, announce that he has suffered a disfiguring injury and after a decent period of time, return to his workplace assuming the dead man's identity. A one woman play and effectively a tour de force of a monologue, the 80 minute one act work that follows is her take upon Germany's march through the 20th century.
Accomplished actress Tricia Kelly is Max, putting in a gruelling shift and never once off stage as her character's beer and schnapps-fuelled reminiscences paint the history of Germany from the rise of Nazism, through war and subsequent division and more recently and in a final act newly written by Karge and receiving its first outing here, as a country re-unified. Kelly's turn is at times crude and bombastic, sometimes reflective and at other times desperate for survival. Drably clad throughout and with poorly shod ill matching footwear, much like Brecht's Schweyk hers is a character who observes the world around her. An energetic and all consuming performance for sure, but the world that Kelly gives us is also relentlessly drab.
Historically informative in parts and technically, this is a beautifully crafted piece of theatre, but Man to Man is not an entertaining evening. Whilst Karge's writing may acknowledge the American and Soviet influences upon Germany over the last 70 years, there is barely any mention of Germany's role at the heart of a developing European union - so even his history lesson is marginally myopic.
This play is only rarely seen on an English stage and it does not cross the North Sea well. Strictly for the students.
Runs to 30th November 2014