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REVIEW: Man to Man at Newcastle Northern Stage

A Wales Millennium Centre production
Man to Man
Newcastle Northern Stage                               
Until Wednesday 18th October 2017

Written by Manfred Karge
Translated by Alexandra Wood

Photo: Polly Thomas
Photo: Polly Thomas
It is a shame that this production is only visiting the region for two shows. Man To Man really stands out in a season that has seen Northern Stage host some great shows. In fact this is proving to be the best season that they’ve had for some years. We don’t hand out stars, as you know, but this would be a candidate for five of them if we did. I know we love the vast majority of shows that we go to but this one really stands out. I hope that’s not too much hyperbole but here we go with the review.
Photo: Polly Thomas
Photo: Polly Thomas
Man to Man is a single-handed play tells the life story of a woman called Ella Gericke who marries at 19 to a crane operator who dies just over a year after their marriage from cancer. The trouble is that death results in the loss of the bread winner. She therefore decides to adopt the identity of her husband Max based upon the assumption that the lads at his workplace didn’t really know who operated the crane who worked above the factories floor. The plan seems to be working until the Nazis arrived and started a war that needed men to fight.
Photo: Polly Thomas
Photo: Polly Thomas
Maggie Bain is incredibly versatile as Ella. She successfully carries out the role of storyteller and actor whilst climbing up and down the set. She moves with intrinsically choreographed grace whilst delivering the monologue with vigour and purpose. The energy ensured the audience were captivated for the full 85 minutes. Directors Bruce Guthrie and Scott Graham have done a fine job in keeping the spirit of playwright Manfred Karge who has been described as ‘East Germany’s Orson Welles’.
Photo: Polly Thomas
Photo: Polly Thomas
Helping Maggie deliver the show was a really creative set which has a number of features thanks to Richard Kent’s design. Over the top of the set are occasional projections from Andrzej Goulding and subtle lighting from Rick Fisher. The moment when Maggie’s shadow showed her lifting a baby rather than the actual cushion that was in her hand was an example of how the staging helped deliver the story.

Photo: Polly Thomas
Photo: Polly Thomas
Man to Man has a strong sense of storytelling rather than delivering style over substance. An energetic performance, showing a real sense of stage craft, by Maggie Bain was both powerful and entertaining. The set, sound and lighting supported her in a way which reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. This is impressive theatre.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Photo: Polly Thomas
Performed by Maggie Bain
Directed by Bruce Guthrie & Scott Graham
Design by Richard Kent
Lighting Design by Rick Fisher
Sound Design by Mike Walker
Video Design by Andrzej Goulding
Music by Matthew Scott
Produced by Pádraig Cusack

‘Wales Millennium Centre’s licence to present Manfred Karge’s MAN TO MAN is granted by Rosica Colin Limited, London, by arrangement with henschel SCHAUSPIEL, Berlin.’ 

Age Guidance: 14+ (Contains strong language and adult themes)

Newcastle - Northern Stage                                       
Tuesday 17th - Wednesday 18thOctober 2017
Box Office:  - 0191 230 5151

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