Linck & Mülhahn ★★★ Hampstead Theatre | Jan 27 - Mar 4, 2023


The only existing record that presents the story of Anastasius Linck and their wife, Catharina Margaretha Mülhahn, is that of the principals' trial for sodomy in 1721. From that account, Ruby Thomas brings to life two individuals who defy the behaviour codes of their day and who each strive for authenticity in their own way. The love story is both touching and convincing, and their determination to flout convention and to present themselves to the world in a manner that is true to themselves definitely resonates. However, when dealing with historical drama, there are a couple of issues that need to be addressed. The first is: Does one strive for historical accuracy or simply go Moulin Rouge? This show strives to walk an uneasy line between these two poles. For us, the initial presentation of the love story, with its mannered banter and quaint turn of phrase, worked well, but the contemporary music and choreography sequences were simply jarring. The second issue confronting any writer of historical drama is how much does one emphasise the parallel with contemporary events. In the first act of this piece, the analogy with the struggles faced by trans people today seemed to work fairly well. The issue of appearance and reality is approached from various angles and the audience is trusted to catch the inferences. However, in the second act, the points seemed belaboured, and this wasn't alleviated by some rather heavy-handed humour. Nevertheless, what works throughout the show are the riveting portrayals of Linck and Mülhahn by Maggie Bain and Helena Wilson. Their characterisation and relationship ring beautifully true. As Mülhahn's mother, representing the hypocrisy and compromise that propriety requires, Lucy Black also puts in a fine performance. The strength of Linck & Mülhahn is that it rescues from obscurity an important moment in history and sheds light on an issue that resonates with today's struggles. In the words of the historical Linck "even if [I am] done away with, those who are [like me] will remain."

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Helen Murray.

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