The cast, led by the excellent Rory Kinnear as Karl Marx, offer a quick skip through the life of the Marx family, with the ever dependable and supportive Friedrich Engels, in the mid-1850s.
Richard Bean and Clive Coleman’s narrative encompasses Marx role as father, drunk and genius. He has scraps with the law, duels with an opponent and suitor for his wife, impregnates the family maid - all whilst working on his master work Das Kapital.
This play entertains, whilst also informing and educating - offering a rudimentary understanding of Marx’s writings, set amid slapstick humour. The alienation of labour, commodification and the role of money all get a brief airing.
Set in Soho, mainly at the Marx family residence of the time in Dean Street, the play features insights into the refugee community, particularly the Prussians at this time, who lived in the area. The revolutionary meetings, the struggles to halt those who see a violent attack on Queen Victoria as the way forward.
Kinnear provides much of the energy, tipping over at times into his inner Michael McIntyre. Oliver Chris provides a great foil with his Engels.
In one telling moment of Engels frustration, he explains how he is an observer but Marx has the insight into how society works – the structures of class and exploitation that forces so many to live in abject poverty.
Nancy Carroll as the long suffering Jenny Von Westphalen (Mrs Marx) and Laura Elphinstone as the maid and confidant Helene “Nym” Demuth also give excellent performances.
Young Marx is the debut play at the new Bridge theatre, near to Tower Bridge in London. A great start for the new £12.5 million theatre, which has performance Julius Caesar and Nightfall coming up over the next few months.
*Young Marx plays at the Bridge Theatre until 31 December 2017