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Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Oct 21, 2013 - 01:08 AM Archive

by Manfred Karge translated by Anthony Vivis.

Mercury Theatre (Studio) Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 19 October 2013.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 October.

Intense performance in play that searches identity among societyís pressures.

In programming as inspired as it is adventurous, the Mercury revives Bertolt Brechtís The Good Person of Sichuan in its main house, accompanied by Man to Man in the studio. Both involve a woman taking on male guise, but while Brecht used the idea as a general account of how goodness is impossible in a monetary society, Manfred Karge (who had acted in Brechtís company, the Berliner Ensemble) looks at the realities of a woman surviving after she takes on her dead husbandís identity to keep his job in thirties Germany.

Max Gerickeís occupation as a crane driver was made for symbolism; part of the construction industry, but an observer placed above things. The piece was first seen in Britain during 1987 with Tilda Swinton as Ella. At the Mercury Tricia Kelly is a generation older than Swinton was then. She might not immediately convince as heartthrob for either the gay man carted-off by the Nazis or the beautiful canteen-worker who seeks help from beloved ĎMaxí when political activities put her in danger.

(Itís at that moment Ella showed the kind of rare selflessness Brechtís Grusha displays in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She seems surprised as ever when she recalls the moment, but it stands-out in the drink-laced memories among which the old, embattled Ella exists.)

But Kelly excels at the sense of a life doggedly survived more than lived, through political and economic vicissitudes. An actor whose work has deepened and sharpened in recent years, she sits dozing in her chair, recounting experiences which neutralise nature, seeming imprisoned by the arrow-shapes Sarah McColganís lighting throws across the room, before, in the post-Berlin Wall democracy of the new Germany, the four suspended bars of Eleanor Fieldís set slowly descend to imprison Ella in her later years, when the process of survival has led to asking what the point has all been about.

Gruff voice occasionally piping to delicate soprano, everything recounted on her own terms without surprise or pleasure, Kelly ends, in androgynous footwear (one male, one female shoe) caught by her own life in Tilly Bransonís aptly remorseless production.

Ella Gericke: Tricia Kelly.

Director: Tilly Branson.
Designer: Eleanor Field.
Lighting: Sarah McColgan.
Sound: John Chambers.
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