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Linck, The Last Refuge

Danny West & Ben Fensome 

Directed by Danny West
★★★

Pros: A strong all-female cast with a very interesting and relevant subject matter

Cons: There seemed to be a few inconsistencies in the script, a potentially biased representation of Catharina Linck and the final moments lacked passion

Our Verdict: A very interesting script and a strong cast make this show worthwhile, despite some tiny flaws

Courtesy of The Last Refuge

The new production, Linck, at The Last Refuge in Peckham has many merits, but mainly it succeeds in exposing audiences to a marginalized historical figure and event. Despite being ignored in mainstream history lessons, it offers a powerful and thought-provoking examination of gender and sexuality issues. The play tells the story of Catharina Linck, a woman who lived primarily as a man, took a wife, and was subsequently tried and executed for sodomy.

The framework of the play is Linck’s trial – the real transcripts were used in some cases and guided us through various events in Linck’s life, including her time as a member of a religious cult, stints in the army and her relationship with her young wife. Fanni Compton commits fully and passionately to her role as Linck and does well to navigate her conflicted existence in every aspect – spiritual, political, and sexual. Compton is well supported by Adele Keating and Helen Worsely, who take on a number of different roles to populate Linck’s past. Keating is most engaging as the wife of Linck but her Prosecutor is lacking by comparison. The set compliments the story well – a bed of mulch and earthy tones allow for a variety of different locations and moments in time.

Trouble comes in tracking all of the events. To be fair to the playwrights, Linck led a convoluted life, giving them a lot to cover and connect in an hour’s time. It was occasionally hard to tell if flashbacks were happening in sequences or at random and what character knew what and when. Another slight issue arose in the very final moments of the play, which simply felt contrived in comparison to the performances and events which came before.

My final complaint would be that the play tries a bit too hard to earn audience sympathy for Linck. It is common to justify the actions of subjects in biographical works but I was surprised to learn a few things when I read up on Catharina Linck after the show. While many events and circumstances of her life were astonishingly complex and hard to pin down, there was one recurring theme, namely the violent relationship with her wife. This directly opposed claims made in the play, which really focuses on the unconditional love between the pair. In fact, Cathy Muhlhahn says within the play, quite bluntly, “He does not beat me,” and we are shown a very tender, loving and true romance. While I’d prefer this ideal, historical reality seems to be contrary and the choice made in the script to ignore this detail seems like an attempt to ensure our support for Linck’s position. Of course this only affects audiences in terms of their interest in the historical contexts and realities of the play. It should not affect a viewer’s mere enjoyment of the piece and it certainly didn’t tarnish my experience.

While Linck occasionally presents a selective reality, the play itself is generally quite good with a small but talented cast and a very worthwhile, albeit difficult, subject.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!

Linck runs at The Last Refuge until 24 February 2012.

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