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Review: Young Marx, at The Bridge Theatre

New theatre’s thoroughly entertaining opening production focuses firmly on the man behind Marxism, rather than his political vision

09 November, 2017 — By Catherine Usher

Rory Kinnear and Oliver Chris in Young Marx. Photos: Manuel Harlan

THE Bridge Theatre’s opening production is a vibrant, humorous, innovative show focusing on Karl Marx’s challenging life in mid-19th century Soho, when he is struggling to support his young family, while working with his long-time collaborator Engels.

Beginning in 1850, when Marx is in his early 30s, the Marx family’s domestic set-up is intriguing, and the way that he exasperates as well as inspires the women in his life is highly entertaining. Nancy Carroll as the aristocratic Jenny Von Westphalen takes the phrase “long-suffering wife” to new levels and Laura Elphinstone as Nym, the housekeeper, demonstrates just what difficulties Marx’s charisma can create.

Aside from being something of a smoothie, Oliver Chris captures Engels’ idealism and occasional despair with conviction – his description of poverty in the cotton mills of Manchester is both rousing and poignant.

At times the duo are rather like a music hall act – next to Engels’ tall, elegant straight man, Rory Kinnear’s Marx is a joker, scurrying over rooftops to evade the police and hiding in wardrobes. Although frequently farcical, biographer Francis Wheen assures the audience in the programme notes that most of the content is true.

As the Marx children, Qui Qui and Fawksey, Matilda Shapland and Logan Clark are impressive, handling the material with as much confidence as the adults.

Richard Bean and Clive Coleman’s new play focuses firmly on the man behind Marxism rather than his political vision. Although it can hardly be described as educational, it is certainly a polished, original and thoroughly entertaining production.

UNTIL DECEMBER 31
0333 320 0052
Young Marx will be broadcast live from The Bridge Theatre to 700 UK cinemas and many more worldwide on Thursday, December 7. Visit www.ntlive.com

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