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Linck & Mülhahn

Linck & Mülhahn

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It follows her two sold-out plays for Hampstead Downstairs: The Animal Kingdom ('pure theatre’ – The Guardian) and Either (‘marks Ruby Thomas out as a daring and exciting new voice’ – The Arts Desk). They will be joined by Daniel Abbott, David Carr, Marty Cruickshank, Kammy Darweish, Qasim Mahmood, Leigh Quinn and Timothy Speyer. Many of us, one would like to think, should be familiar with the concept of gender presentation, but there is little offered here beyond reinforcing the idea of being true to oneself – though perhaps that bears repeating in this day and age. Home to William Golding, Sylvia Plath, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sally Rooney, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Max Porter, Ingrid Persaud, Anna Burns and Rachel Cusk, among many others, Faber is proud to publish some of the greatest novelists from the early twentieth century to today.

Linck is all cocky confidence: poignantly, the moment he finally starts to show Mulhahn his vulnerability is the moment when men storm in with the inevitable arrest warrant. At times, it’s ploddingly paced, with Thomas trying to pack too many ideas into a narrative that is at its best when it’s tightly focused on the central characters’ passionate relationship. The cast also include Lucy Black (The Durrells, The Haystack), as Mother, plus Daniel Abbott, David Carr, Marty Cruickshank, Kammy Darweish, Qasim Mahmood, Leigh Quinn and Timothy Speyer. Touch is often mentioned, from the touché of swordsmanship to the idea of touch going beyond what the eyes can see, to get closer to the “true essence” of an individual. From Nobel Laureates Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter to theatre greats Tom Stoppard and Alan Bennett to rising stars Polly Stenham and Florian Zeller, Faber Drama presents the very best theatre has to offer.Bain, who is non-binary, released a video statement on Instagram addressing some of these concerns, and Hampstead offered free preview tickets to trans and queer individuals who wanted to see the show but couldn’t afford a ticket. I linger’, she says, both women relishing all the humour in a script that's stuffed with larky historicisms like ‘zounds’ and ‘dunderhead’. The title of Ruby Thomas’s play suggests some kind of cringey comedy double act, but the reality is weightier, stranger and sexier than that. But the whole thing is too gimmicky and too self-conscious in its juxtaposition of different eras to really work. There’s enough zesty life in Wilson’s Mülhahn, and enough beady steel in Bain’s Linck to keep you watching.

Wilson’s sparky, self-deprecating Mülhahn completes the two-hander, whose enthusiastic embrace of the philosophies of love is endearing, and echoed with tragic reflection from Mülhahn’s older self (Marty Cruikshank). And the closing attempt to imagine a different future feels unearned, and tonally disjointed from what's gone before.It could have started from the outset explaining that this is the truth she is forced to tell, and how she wishes to present a different one some day, but like many other ideas in Linck and Mülhahn, the full scope of the concept isn’t explored enough. Though such ideas which appear compelling to Mülhahn feel light and unexplored as an audience member, even with all its impressive motifs. The 21st century erupts into the 18th with clashing idioms and music in which harpsichord ripples are outnumbered by explosions of rock – as if the couple were living ahead of themselves. Ruby Thomas' epic and playful love story, inspired by eighteenth-century court records and the extraordinary lives of a gender-pioneering couple, opened at Hampstead Theatre, London, in January 2023.

Unlike Hampstead theatre, which, stripped of its grant last year, has just put on the most exhilarating play I’ve seen there for ages. One moment we have a tender domestic scene, the next we are in comic absurdist territory with a courtroom whose judge could have been written by Peter Cook.

For all its spirit, there's something old school embedded into the structure of Thomas's play that director Owen Horsley's furious blasts of the Sex Pistols between scenes can’t shake off.

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