Man to Man

Oct 12 2017 | By More

★★★★☆     Impressive

Traverse Theatre: Wed 11 – Sat 14 Oct 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Imaginative staging and superb acting give Man To Man at the Traverse a fascination that cannot prevent it from running out of steam slightly before the end.

Manfred Karge’s one-woman show about Ella Gericke, a woman forced by financial necessity to impersonate her dead husband in 1930s Germany, had a notable previous run at the Traverse in 1987 that brought Tilda Swinton to prominence. This new version by Wales Millennium Centre also features a magnetic actor.

Maggie Bain in Man to Man. Pic PollyThomas

Maggie Bain’s performance is as compelling and accomplished as any you are likely to see. Impressively physical, she switches from character to character, giving each due weight and life, making complicated techniques look as easy as breathing, but making the business of living look suitably difficult.

Directors Bruce Guthrie and Scott Gorham provide a spectacularly varied context for Bain, utilising Richard Kent’s excellent set to the full. Rick Fisher’s lighting, Mike Walker’s sound and Andrzej Goulding’s magnificent projections add to an experience that cannot be faulted on a technical level.

Alexandra Wood’s translation is so clever and natural-sounding that the odd moments that seem to have got stuck in an over-literal rendering of the German do stick out.

Anyone whose memory goes back as far as that production with Tilda Swinton might be surprised at the mention of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is a slightly updated version of the original, which seems unnecessary and suffers from a lack of cohesion in the last quarter.


There is an inescapable feeling that it is ten minutes too long, and that it features one piece too many of clever staging, that ends up seeming tricksy for its own sake rather than adding to the atmosphere.

This all reinforces the nagging doubts about the material. It may have been groundbreaking once. Now, compared to some of the explorations of gender and identity the Traverse in particular has recently witnessed, it seems a resolutely 1980s male perspective.

Eva in the end is not a woman inhabiting a male body, but a woman impersonating a man, and a woman who deep down – guess what? – wants to be compared to a princess.

None of this should take away from Bain’s performance, which remains an astonishing feat and is largely equalled by the verve and invention of the staging.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 October 2017
Daily at 7.30 pm, Matinee Saturday 2.30 pm
Information and tickets:

Man to Man on tour:
Oct 11 – 14 Edinburgh
0131 228 1404 Book online
Oct 17 – 18 Newcastle
Northern Stage
0191 230 5151 Book online
Oct 25 – 28 Liverpool
Everyman Theatre
0151 709 4776 Book online
Nov 7 – 11 New York
Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
(718)-636-4182 Book online


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Comments (1)

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  1. Patrick Walshe says:

    I was at last night’s Man to Man at Traverse. It’s an extraordinary production – visually breathtaking and with a solo performance that takes your breath away. If you’re interested in theatre, acting, design, German expressionism, art, rights of women, Germany in the 1930s ….I could go on, BOOK and see this show. It’s 70 minutes long and worth every second. Words don’t do it justice. Well done Traverse Theatre for bringing this show to us. Hats off to the folks in Wales – lush!