By Holly Ferguson
Image by Daniel J Grant
Last year when I first saw the 2017 BSSTC program, I was immediately drawn to I Am My Own Wife.
I thought, ‘Brendan Hanson, in a one man show about an eccentric German transgender antique collector… I’m in!’
So, after almost a year of curiosity and anticipation I finally saw I Am My Own Wife. I can assure you, it was most definitely worth the wait.
The casting of Hanson in this role couldn’t have been more fitting. He fills the stage to the point where you forget you’re seeing a one man show.
His portrayal of the main character, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf is hilarious, yet, at the right moments, tender. Everything from Hanson’s gestures, speech, the coy glances he makes, truly captures Charlotte and who she was.
Joe Hooligan Lui demonstrates super human abilities, in this show, by not only directing it but also composing it!
To direct 30+ characters through one person is a great undertaking, but it clearly didn’t hold Lui back in any way.
Each character is distinctly different. I appreciated that the direction of a conversation between two characters wasn’t in an overtly obvious jump cut style. Instead, Lui trusted Hanson’s ability to transform from character to character with not much movement other than the way he held himself as each person.
Cherish Marrington’s set is pretty damn cool too. Steps break up the intimate space with walls on either side, which have mechanised fins to further transform the small area. The space can go from a home to a prison to a TV studio set seamlessly.
Black columns are placed on the right-hand side of the stage, emulating those that would hold up Charlotte’s beloved antiques. The columns hold different objects corresponding to seperate elements of her extraordinary life, like a large gramophone.
A small replica of the stage is also placed on one of the columns, like a doll’s house; impressively, it moves and lights up in the same manner the stage does. During different points of the piece, Hanson interacts with the replica in an almost surreal reflection of Charlotte looking back on her life.
The replica holds mini furniture pieces that are so cute! I want them!
Image by Daniel J Grant
Marrington’s costume is versatile for the astonishing 30+ characters played by Hanson. For most of the performance Hanson wears a uniform that is quite nun-like. He wears a kilt-like skirt with pleats, I have to put a ‘Trend Alert’ on this. It’s a look!
The overall design of this production is great; all elements, sound, lighting, set and costume, blend together effortlessly.
For those who don’t know Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was a real person (1928-2002). You wouldn’t be judged for thinking she wasn’t however, as she is quite unbelievable.
As depicted in the show, people questioned the validity of Charlotte’s stories, of her past and her exact involvement with the Stasi was unclear.
However, you cannot argue that she was not an extraordinary person.
To live during such a time of intense world turmoil (World War 2 & The Cold War) and in an environment, that was not LGBT+ friendly in the slightest, and still have the bravery to live as a trans woman is incredible.
Charlotte saved valuable parts of LGBT+ history through her museum, not allowing for the chaotic environment to eradicate the proof of existence and culture of these people. For that act alone she is commendable.
I Am My Own Wife is the perfect prelude to BSSTC’s program for next year, it’s historical, funny and entirely relevant.
Season runs until Sunday 29 October, Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA. Buy tickets here
Warning: Adult themes, Suitability: Ages 16+