Good art should either provoke or add to a continuing conversation. That’s what this new play, Linck and Mulhahn by Ruby Thomas does in ways not seen on the London stage before. It’s a complex story but the central themes of love and wanting to live one’s own authentic life is universal.
A dashing soldier, Anastasius Linck loves the ladies but doesn’t want to settle down until a chance encounter with Catharina Mulhahn. As their feelings blossom, the truth is revealed.
This play is inspired by actual 18th century court records of a gender pioneering couple. The role of Anastasius is played by non binary actor Maggie Bain. They are incredible in the role as is Helena Wick as Catharina. There’s also Lucy Black as the older Catharina who acts as narrator. At first, I thought this literary device was a gimmick but come the second act, it actually adds to the pathos.
Having said that the play takes a while to find its stride. It is only really 20 mins before the end of the first act that I thought ok, this is suddenly interesting. Some of the use of modern music and dancing is jarring and unnecessary during the scene changes. What the audience need is space and time to let the information they hear and emotions felt settle.
It’s full of romance, love and then is utterly gut wrenching tragedy as the second half unfolds we are then plunged into the court proceedings. What we are left with is a pertinent reminder that love is love and there’s nothing to fear. That this baseless need to fear what is unknown just leads to heartache.
I saw a preview so I’m sure the cast will find their feet. On Saturday night, they received a standing ovation from the entire auditorium. This really is a must see because representation matters as does diverse storytelling. If we want more of that then we must put our bum on the seat!
Linck & Mulhahn is at Hampstead Theatre from the 27 Jan to 4 March.