Executed For Sodomy: The Life Story Of Caterina Link
3 stars ***
C Nova (Venue 145)
IN A WORLD that prides itself on increasing sexual freedom and tolerance, transgender people still often find themselves the target of hatred, rejection and violence. And it’s perhaps because of that continuing prejudice – and the growing backlash against all sexual diversity in Russai and elsewhere – that this new show by Shift Productions seems both timely and contemporary, despite its historic setting.
Caterina Link was excecuted in Prussia in 1721 on a charge of “sodomy”, after seeking to live her life as a man, and having sexual relations with her wife, Kathy, using a prosthesis. In a brief 55 minutes, this fine if sketchy play by Danny West and Ben Fensome takes us through the key moments of Link’s life, from his/her teenage years – when he abruptly began to wear male clothing, and was beaten for it – through his military service in two opposing armies, to his loving marriage with Kathy, torn apart by the hatred and suspicion of her mother.
The acting is sometimes a little insecure, in this three-handed version of the tale, and the show totters a little under the task of conveying a whole historic period with no set, simple costumes, and a few recorded voice-overs of contemporary royal speeches. There is a terrific central performance from Fanni Compton as Link, though, strange, complex and heartrending.
And the quality of the writing is invariably impressive, using short, sharp, vividly theatrical scenes to dive straight to the heart of the searing issues of identity, freedom, masculinity, patriotic militarism, misogyny and prejudice raised by Link’s remarkable and haunting story.
Until 26 August