Young Marx – A Preview

Karl Marx had been thrown out of Prussia, Germany, France and Belgium by the time he made a home for himself in London’s Soho, a tiny refuge for European dissidents that Richard Bean and Clive Coleman’s new play captures perfectly.

Soho’s warren of pawn shops, tenements and coffee houses, packed with immigrant communities, has been imaginatively realised by Mark Thompson’s claustrophobic staging in this opening production for the newly opened Bridge Theatre. Reminiscent of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, Bean and Coleman tells the story of a boorish, yet charismatic, game changer with a daring blend of blend of anachronism and scatology, that strays perilously close to absurdity, yet somehow manages to capture a greater truth. Rory Kinnear is outstanding as young Marx, a selfish, reckless, contrary man-child blessed (or perhaps cursed) with a brilliant incisive mind, while Oliver Chris does well to keep up as his long suffering friend Friedrich Engels.

There are subplots aplenty featuring a superb ensemble cast (Laura Elphinstone is particularly affecting as Nym, the family maid) but as the leads frequently remind us, this is fundamentally the Marx and Engels show. It is also the rarest of things – a very funny play that zips along, but one that is nonetheless poignant, insightful and – for those of less unfamiliar with the roots of Marx’s thinking – genuinely educational.

By David Vass

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