Linck & Mülhahn at Hampstead Theatre

Stories about gender non-conforming people have largely been left out of the historical canon. Linck & Mulhahn is a play that sets out to shed new light on such experiences, offering them a place in our understanding of human history. Set in the 1700s, Linck & Mulhahn follows the story of Anastasius Linck, a gender non-conforming person assigned female at birth and living as a man – first as a soldier and then as a clothmaker – until they meet Catharina, a unique woman who offers a chance at real vulnerability. Written by Ruby Thomas and directed by Owen Horsley, this is a queer love story based on real events and people. It is charming, poignant and deeply compassionate.

Helena Wilson in Linck & Mülhahn. Hampstead Theatre. Credit Helen Murray.
Helena Wilson in Linck & Mülhahn. Hampstead Theatre. Credit Helen Murray.

At the centre of it all are the two leads, Anastasius Linck played by Maggie Bain and Catharina Mulhahn, played by Helena Wilson. Both are excellent, lending the right level of easy humour and fun to each part, helping to overcome any moments where we might feel they are each a little too ahead of their time, or where the difficulty of their position in a society that is absolutely not ready for them, might otherwise threaten to detract from what is a jubilant and beautiful love story. Bain in particular is incredibly accomplished, ensuring the turmoil of Anastasius’ position is never too far beneath a charismatic and lively exterior. It is a nuanced and intelligent performance.

While the framing narrative device feels slightly too much in moments, and the second half is of course not quite as sparkly as the first, this is a truly moving theatre experience that cannot fail to entertain and move audiences. We never veer into any kind of cringe either, thanks to such effective writing and performances. For me personally, having been in a relationship not unlike the one depicted here, the value of seeing an element of my life reflected on stage cannot be overstated.

Certainly, there are a few moments that don’t quite land – they stand out starkly precisely because Thomas’ writing crackles with wit for so much of the play. In particular, quoting the infamous Gone with the Wind (1939) line to close an awkward first encounter between Anastasius and Catharina’s mother feels very out of place and jars with an otherwise energetic originality to all the dialogue.

Additionally, the blaring modern music choices (mixed in with more historically appropriate sound) tend to weigh down some of the transitions with heavy-handed self-awareness. We have seen plenty of historical text overlaid with modern music; this has become its own kind of trope. However, it is understandable that a sense of being ‘beyond time’ is important to the execution of this play and its subject matter. All this is achieved in the nuanced characterisations, the effective set design and clever performances. It doesn’t need the ‘edgy’ musical overlay.

In all, Linck & Mulhahn is at its core a moving and effective love story that defies time and identity. It offers us a refined and earnest reminder of the power of vulnerability and honesty, and the need to be seen and accepted – these needs that are human and universal, never changing and never going away.

4 stars

Review by Christina Carè

An epic love story inspired by the extraordinary real life of an 18th Century gender pioneer has its world premiere at Hampstead Theatre in 2023. Linck & Mülhahn, written by Ruby Thomas and directed by Owen Horsley, will run at Hampstead Theatre from Friday 27 January to Saturday 4 March 2023.

MAIN STAGE – WORLD PREMIERE

LINCK & MÜLHAHN
By Ruby Thomas
Directed by Owen Horsley
Designer Simon Wells
Lighting Designer Matt Daw
Sound Design and Composition Max Pappenheim
Casting Director Helena Palmer
Assistant Director Dewi Johnson
Cast Daniel Abbott, Maggie Bains, Lucy Black, David Carr, Marty Cruickshank, Kammy Darweish, Qasim Mahmood, Leigh Quinn, Timothy Speyer and Helena Wilson.

LISTING INFO
Address: Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, London, NW3 3EU
hampsteadtheatre.com

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1 thought on “Linck & Mülhahn at Hampstead Theatre”

  1. I came to see this production last night. I didn’t know in advance what the subject matter was as I was coming with a friend and he didn’t tell me what we were seeing. It was extremely poignant for me as i have a transgender daughter. I thought this production was brilliant and made me very emotional at the end. It brought up for me all that I went through with my daughter and all the fears for her life, such as would she get attacked, would she commit suicide, how will strangers react etc etc. My love for my child is as strong as ever as luckily I am not the sort to disown ow judge. I would’ve liked to thank you personally for your performance. I think it’s import this subject is explored. Many thanks and lots of love to the cast and script writer and all involved.

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