Linck & Mülhahn reviews are coming in, for the latest play at Hampstead Theatre in London.
Written by Ruby Thomas, this epic love story centres on the true lives of a gender-pioneering couple – dashing soldier Anastasius Linck and the rebellious Catharina Mülhahn.
Maggie Bain (Man to Man, Henry V) stars as Anastasius Linck, alongside Helena Wilson (Jack Absolute Flies Again, The Lady from the Sea) as Catharina Mülhahn.
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.
Directed by Owen Horsley, the play’s creative team also includes Simon Wells (design), Matt Daw (lighting), Max Pappenheim (sound), Dewi Johnson (assistant direction), Rachel Bown-Williams (fight and intimacy direction) and Ruth Cooper Brown (fight and intimacy direction).
Linck & Mülhahn runs from 27 January 2023 until 4 March 2023 at Hampstead Theatre, London.
Read reviews from The Times, The Evening Standard, The Stage, The Guardian and more.
Linck & Mülhahn reviews
"Queer costume drama echoes through the ages"
"Ruby Thomas’s play, based on a true story about a married couple in 18th-century Prussia who were tried for sodomy, is tender, musical and funny"
"The polite harpsichord music of balls and boudoirs is fractured by ecstatic blasts of music from the 20th-century counterculture, as the can of worms is cracked open by a versatile 10-strong cast."
"The gear changes from broad comedy to debate and finally polemic might be a bit clunky, and the references to Descartes and Locke rather peremptory, but Thomas is a talented writer, who boldly fills the main stage with a question as pressing today as it ever was: “Tell a person they do not exist … how do you fight that?”"
"Sparky chemistry, nuanced performances"
"Compelling historical drama about gender-nonconformity in the 1700s"
"Ruby Thomas’ ambitious, if somewhat overstuffed drama draws on the scant historical facts available from the transcript of Linck and Mülhahn’s trial. It’s a sprawling tragi-comic love story that explores contemporary issues around sex, gender and the violent oppression of people whose lives do not conform to narrow societal expectations. 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. But there’s enough sparky chemistry and witty verbal sparring to keep the audience engaged."
"Gimmicky and self-conscious"
"The story and ideas should be compelling but the arch tone keeps the audience at arms length"
"Imaginatively reverse-engineered from a historic trial document, Ruby Thomas’s tale of a couple who pioneered gender flexibility in 18th century Prussia is, ultimately, a bit of a mess."
"Though the story and ideas should be compelling, the arch tone of Owen Horsley’s production, and some panto-style acting in the supporting cast, keep us at arm’s length."
"This self-aggrandising stuff might be easier to take if Thomas’s own script weren’t so erratic. The romantic sparring between the lovers is as clipped and ironic as that of any Noel Coward couple, but Linck agrees to Mülhahn’s suggestion they marry with the words, “F*** it, let’s do it”. Though they subsequently talk about the wild passion they share, we never feel it."
"Love, trans rights and punk in 18th-century Saxony"
"We’re passing through a phase where dramatists addressing the question of gender identity seem to place uplift above all else. This is not a healthy trend. Fist-clenching activists may be happy enough; the rest of us are left starved of subtlety and insight."
"There’s potentially rich material here, but Thomas’s freely invented portrait of two happy-go-lucky nonconformists is very much a 21st-century morality play about intolerance, ignorance and the evils of the patriarchy. RSC director Owen Horsley gives us an arch and glossy production with a touch of Moll Flanders humour, the narrative occasionally interrupted by bursts of punk rock. (The Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant is part of the soundtrack.)"
"The visual and musical flourishes can’t quite camouflage the thinness of the writing. Most of the nuances and ambiguities have been ironed out; this is history as viewed through the prism of an Adam Ant video. Maggie Bain and Helena Wilson are winning enough as Linck and Mülhahn, yet the characters are never more than one-dimensional."
"A true story of gender noncomforming makes rich, playful drama"
"... Thomas has crafted a drama that’s rich and witty and playful, if over-busy and uneven, told in flashback by the older Mülhahn. It’s a play that adds to the number of queer stories currently and recently on the London stage"
"Like I, Joan, Thomas’s expansive play reframes historical drama, reminding us that there are countless untold stories of queer love and gender nonconforming throughout history."
"Like the principal characters, Thomas’s script eludes categorisation, weaving in Restoration comedy, Jane Austen and courtroom drama, as it depicts the unseemly scrabbles of the marriage market. Simon Wells’s set of translucent screens creates multiple interiors. The play is over-packed as a narrative, however, with several underwritten characters, such as the foppish suitor for Mülhahn, and the contemporary resonances sometimes feel heavily underscored or didactic."
"The extraordinary story of an 18th-century woman charged with sodom"
"Linck and and Mulhahn, an intriguing new play at the Hampstead, strives too hard to offer a modern perspective"
"These meagre but glinting spokes form the basis of Ruby Thomas's freewheeling reconstruction, which casts Anastasius not as a lesbian but as neither woman nor man... The basic facts of their story remain intact, but the lens is very much a 21st century one, which stretches to the ahistorical way they think and talk about themselves. “We have always existed,” says Linck. “We will always exist."
"All well and good, but I wish Thomas and her director Owen Horsley had dug more deeper and faithfully into the story's period setting, and allowed us to care about both characters as messy, complicated products of their specific moment rather than as emblematic figures co-opted by history, even if the words non binary and trans are conspicuously not used. Instead, Horsley's production has a self-consciously ersatz feel, the stage dominated by an unlovely cheap-looking white panelled wall..."
"The 21st century erupts into a tale of 18th century gender subversion"
"The RSC needs to prove it is essential, not least because it receives Arts Council funding. Unlike Hampstead theatre, which, stripped of its grant last year, has just put on the most exhilarating play I’ve seen there for ages."
"The contemporary resonance is startling; by pointing this out in dogged, explicatory speeches, Thomas muffles the impact. Take these speeches away and the evening sparkles and disrupts under Owen Horsley’s direction."
"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... Superb"
"Maggie Bain and Helena Wilson are sweet, if a little 21st-century, as the lovebirds. Owen Horsley’s production is jolted by blasts of punk rock. 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. He’s almost as bilious as some of the Hampstead’s patrons, who habitually barge past you en route to their seats. London’s rudest theatre, by far."
"Ruby Thomas’s play is a rapier-sharp historical romp"
"Based on real events and characters, Ruby Thomas’s play is a rapier-sharp historical romp, festooned with sparkling dialogue, that ultimately draws blood and tears."
"Owen Horsley’s direction has a lightness of touch that makes the anachronisms palatable, especially the loud bursts of punk music that punctuate the scenes, mischievously selected for erotically-charged reference points."