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Man to Man (Colchester)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Tricia Kelly
© Mike Kwasniak Photography 2013

Theatrically speaking this is a tour de force, award-deserving performance by Tricia Kelly. In Manfred Karge's "Man to Man" (translated by Anthony Vivis), she plays Max Gericke, the crane operator in Weimer Republic Germany whose place is then taken by his widow Ella.

It's a parallel story – also first produced by the Berliner Ensemble – to Brecht's "The Good Person of Sichuan", which runs in repertory with it at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester.

Kelly is entirely credible as the rough-hewn man who only wants to get by, whatever the circumstances. His widow has even more to content with, first as the Third Reich fastens its grip and then as uncomfortable liberation and the division of Germany exact their own toll.

You forget completely about the sex of the protagonist as the story unfolds. Director Tilly Branson and designers Eleanor Field, Sarah McColgan (lighting) and John Chambers (sound) build the tension gradually but remorselessly up to a final coup de théâtre (which I won't describe).

Suffice it to say that it drives home the message that what appears on the surface to be a good thing is not necessarily so, not does the reverse always apply. You ache for Gericke throughout his/her odyssey, aware all the time that there can be no happy outcome.

It makes for an intense experience in the intimate surround of the studio theatre. It's also one which is thoroughly worth while.