Since its premiere in 2003, the play has been performed around the world and throughout Australia, and during the 2017 Midsumma Festival, Melbourne audiences will have the opportunity to witness the fascinating story of Berlin's most notorious transgendered woman on stage.
Reprising his role of van Mahlsdorf is Ben Gerrard, who played it for the first time in Sydney 2015. The one-man show requires Gerrard to perform as all the characters presented in I Am My Own Wife, which stands at over 30 people's minds he needs to inhabit. It is a highly emotionally, physically and demanding role that has taken a long period of preparation by the actor. "It is like a marathon I suppose. Everything you eat and drink throughout the day, the amount of sleep you get, the exercise and warming up you do all has to be measured and timed in order to be ready to perform it. Your whole day leads up to that 90 minutes," he says.
Gerrard will be reuniting with the director of the Sydney production, Shaun Rennie, and is looking forward to seeing how their time apart will create any changes to the production. "When we first did the show, it was Shaun's directorial debut and I think that's why he had the gumption to think we'd be able to pull it off. A year later we've both gone and done so many different challenging things that It’ll be fun to see how all that brings new layers to the work we did with the first production," he tells me.
|Ben Gerrard. Photo Credit: Rupert Reid
While the return to von Mahlsdorf has been easier since his critically acclaimed debut of the role, the preparation has still been a very demanding and challenging process for Gerrard. "The first time I began to prepare for the role was nothing like anything I’d ever had to do. It took a year just to learn the 80-page text. I had to use coaches to learn the German and American dialects and study the history of 20th century Berlin, Charlotte's own autobiography as well as all the YouTube videos of Doug Wright discussing how he wrote the play," Gerrard explains.
"This time round though, It's been mercifully quicker to relearn after a year away from it. That's not to say it is easy...I have locked myself up several times in secluded cabins for days on end but it’s all back again, thank God. I have a huge affection and empathy for Charlotte - she has taught me there is no such thing as good and bad people."
Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: 17 January - 5 February | Tue- Sat 7.30pm, Sat 28 Jan & Sat 4 Feb 4pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $45 Full | $35 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival
Main Photo Credit: Harvey House Productions