Tag Archives: Simon Wells


Linck & Mülhahn


Hampstead Theatre

LINCK & MÜLHAHN at the Hampstead Theatre



“Wilson and Bain are remarkable, deftly switching between the comedy and the subtler, more poignant moments”


Linck and Mülhahn is billed as an epic romance inspired by the true story of an 18th century gender pioneer. I expected it to be an interesting story, and an important one. What I did not expect, was for it to be funny. But funny it is. Very funny.

Much of this is down to Ruby Thomas’ script, which is both witty and bawdy, full of inuendo, and lightning-fast flirting. Owen Horsley’s direction pumps the play with energy, and it races along, aided by punk rock scene transitions by sound designer Max Pappenheim. Despite the heavy subject matter, the play rushes along with zest and spirit.

All that survives of this true story are the court transcripts, documenting Anastasius Linck’s life and their gender non-conformity. Ruby Thomas has framed this story as a romance between Linck and Catharina Mülhahn. There are shades of the screwball comedies in these lovers’ fast-paced flirtation. Both are radical, passionate about the contemporary political philosophy and enjoy a racy joke. Their sizzling romance begins with the feisty young Mülhahn (Helena Wilson) gawping at the dashing Linck (Maggie Bain) through a window. Her unabashed lust, and boldness, is refreshing in a period drama. Throughout the play the dialogue crackles out from the era, making the characters feel so real, it’s easy to forget they’re all long dead.

Both Wilson and Bain are remarkable, deftly switching between the comedy and the subtler, more poignant moments. A particular highlight of both performances is a quiet scene where they bathe one another. Their chemistry and connection are the heart of the play and there is no doubt that these two belong together.

Another stand-out performance is from Lucy Black, as Mülhahn’s mother. It’s a fascinating character, she is bitter, trapped in her internalised conventionality but hopelessly bored and lonely. Black seamlessly navigates the complexity of this role, making her at once both a villain and a victim of her own era.

Simon Wells’ set is modern and evocative. It is a revolving two-storey structure made of veiled screens and doors, which often light up in different colours, courtesy of lighting designer Matt Daw. This creates an illusion of privacy in more intimate scenes, but also the sense that their privacy is as flimsy as the screens themselves.

There are moments where the comedy muddles the emotional punch, especially in the second half. There is also a narrator, which at times feels melodramatic, and unnecessary given the strength of the story itself.

But it is a great story, and this play has spun it in a way which feels fresh, and vibrant. This is not the story of a downtrodden victim. It is the bold and unapologetic cry to leave shame behind and live your own truth.


Reviewed on 6th February 2023

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Helen Murray


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022
Blackout Songs | ★★★★ | November 2022
Sons of the Prophet | ★★★★ | December 2022
The Art of Illusion | ★★★★★ | January 2023



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Once on this Island


Southwark Playhouse

Once on this Island

Once on this Island

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 14th August 2019



“The energy and commitment of the cast is undeniable, as is their pure joy in performing”


Once On This Island is set in the French Antilles, and tells the story of a young peasant girl, Ti Moune, who falls in love with a Frenchman, Daniel, who lives in the grand hotel on the other side of the island. Ti Moune’s love plays out as part of a battle between the gods Papa Ge (the demon of death) and Erzule (the goddess of love) as to who is the strongest, and although Ti Moune ends up cast aside by her lover, in favour of a French noble woman, the gods look kindly on her loyalty to Daniel, and she is reincarnated as a tree, which eventually grows, cracks the hotel gates and allows future generations to live together in harmony. The story is part Romeo and Juliet, part Little Mermaid, and the score is rich in calypso and Caribbean rhythms.

The musical is one of The British Theatre Academy’s summer shows, and, with its nineteen strong cast, Once On This Island is a perfect choice to showcase the talents of its alumni. Lee Proud (director) runs a tight ship, and the production is pacy and professional, with every performer, from the leads to the ensemble, giving their all 100% of the time, which is fantastic to see. The energy and commitment of the cast is undeniable, as is their pure joy in performing. Inevitably, there are weaker links here, but the strength of the collective is such that it doesn’t matter. Similarly, some of the more hackneyed choreography and design choices are glossed over by the brio of the production as a whole.

That said, the high-octane energy could become relentless, and both the production and certain individual performances would have benefitted from a bit more light and shade. This wasn’t helped by the sound, which was deafening. The Southwark Playhouse is a relatively small space, and, although it is now done as a matter of course, this reviewer again questioned the necessity of miking up the performers. The audience is perfectly capable of hearing the singers at such close quarters, and miked-up singing exaggerates an already-present musical theatre stridency in many of the voices. Clarity and vocal strength, however, were on point throughout.

Chrissie Bhima, as Ti Moune, demonstrated terrific tone and control, and made the most of her belters, especially her opening number ‘Waiting for Life’, but the voice of the evening was that of Aviva Tulley, who was masterful throughout and truly came into her own with her showstopper ‘The Human Heart’. Already a subtle, expressive, powerful performer, she is bound to have an exciting future. Credit too to Marie-Anna Caufour for her touching performance as Euralie, Ti Moune’s adopted mother, and to Jonathan Chen for his rousing portrayal of the Earth Mother Asaka.

Once On This Island is not a particularly arresting musical, lyrically, musically or in terms of its story, but it is lots of fun. And this particular production feels like a celebration, full of youthful energy and love. And that really ain’t a bad thing to be a part of on a summer evening.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Eliza Wilmot


Once on this Island

Southwark Playhouse until 31st August


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Night Before Christmas | ★★★ | November 2018
Aspects of Love | ★★★★ | January 2019
All In A Row | ★★ | February 2019
Billy Bishop Goes To War | ★★★ | March 2019
The Rubenstein Kiss | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Other People’s Money | ★★★ | April 2019
Oneness | ★★★ | May 2019
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Afterglow | ★★★½ | June 2019
Fiver | ★★★★ | July 2019


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