Master of his craft – Ben Gerrard tackles 36 characters in I Am My Own Wife, Midsumma

When the rare opportunity arises to see a master at work, you do whatever you can to make it happen. So, Melbourne theatregoers, make it happen.

Ben Gerrard as Charlotte in I Am My Own Wife
Ben Gerrard as Charlotte in I Am My Own Wife

AACTA Award nominee Ben Gerrard hits the Melbourne stage tonight in Shaun Rennie’s acclaimed production of I Am My Own Wife at fortyfivedownstairs. This one-man, epic and moving piece of theatre showcases Gerrard’s incredible talent in an intimate setting and is a must see for anyone who loves stories, history, theatre and craftsmanship!

After a critically successful season in Sydney in 2015, Gerrard and the 36 characters he plays in the piece are heading to the Midsumma Festival from tonight (19 January) until 5 February.

The play follows Charlotte – a pioneering transwoman and survivor of both the nazi and stasi regimes – interrogates her legacy but also weighs her choices in light of the intensely difficult time and place she inhabited. Gerrard says Charlotte’s appeal to him as an actor is not only her convictions but her flaws.

I Am My Own Wife is a terrific love letter to a real human being: one who made mistakes, had regrets but who also possessed incredible courage, conviction and individuality”, he said.

Check out this great Q&A with Ben ahead of opening night tonight!

With complex and challenging subject matter, the backdrop of I Am My Own Wife is a very significant and serious period in history. Is it a ‘heavy’ work?

The playwright, Doug Wright, has infused the piece with a humour in a way that any truthful portrait of anyone would possess… All the facets of his heroine are presented; some delightful some devastating. It is a drama but it is not ernest. And as long as you come with a maturity, an open heart and curiosity I don’t know how you couldn’t find the piece fascinating.

You first starred in this production back in 2015. What has surprised you in the process of rehearsing and performing I Am My Own Wife 18 months later?

There’s no short cuts to preparing an 80-page ‘monologue’ where you play 36 characters from around the world. In fact, when I was asked to do the play I secretly hoped it would never get off the ground. However, being pretty much on the other side of the mountain now, I have to acknowledge what a fulfilling project it has been.

Is being alone on stage, inhabiting 36 different characters in front of an audience a challenging and/or liberating experience?

At some point in our careers as performers we have to learn to pack away those gnawing voices that tell us we don’t know what we’re doing. You just can not walk out on stage and do I Am My Own Wife with doubts. I’ve never had to have so much faith in myself as an actor. Every night is simply jumping off a cliff.

What excites you the most about this show?

The history, the character, the piece itself as one-actor, intimate theatre… It is a truly unique experience as an audience member.

Running Tuesday – Sunday until 5 February.
I Am My Own Wife is listed on SBS list of top 15 not to miss in Midsumma.

Bookings and more information

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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