Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
“The dream child of Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, designed by Steve Tompkins, [the Bridge Theatre] is both glamorous and practical. Its burnished wood, comfortable seats and expansive public spaces make it warm and welcoming. The auditorium is both intimate and imposing. It feels good to be there, which is really all you can ask.”
“The play with which it opens, written jointly by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, shares many of the space’s characteristics. Telling the story of Karl Marx’s early years in London from 1850, when he wasn’t so much revolutionary as revolting, it is original, fresh, expansive and full of passion. I enjoyed every single second of it without ever being quite convinced that it is entirely successful as a coherent play.”
“What it is, definitely, is very funny indeed… At the heart of Young Marx is Oliver Chris, whose Engels has an appealing grace and easy warmth, and of course Rory Kinnear, proving once again what a fine actor he is. Kinnear beautifully endows him not only with wit and vigour but with a suggestion of the genius and intelligence that makes others love him. He is hard to resist.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
“As the first wholly commercial theatre to be built in the capital in 80 years, [the Bridge Theatre] makes an instantly good impression.
“The play is out to demystify Marx, and in this it is largely successful. The Marx we meet is devious, quick-witted and funny… But while the play is clearly designed to humanise Marx, it undersells his ferocious activism which, even in 1850, included giving courses of lectures on “What is bourgeois property?”.
“Hytner’s production and Mark Thompson’s design are faithful to the play’s farcical structure, with much hiding in cupboards and chasing over rooftops. Rory Kinnear also catches very well the ambivalence of Marx, the political visionary who is also a shameless sponger and the radical dreamer haunted by self-doubt.
“But while I enjoyed the evening, I felt that Bean and Coleman, in underplaying the hero’s piercing analysis of capitalist contradiction, had not quite given us the full Marx.”
Paul Taylor, Independent
“Now this new venture gets off to a whizzing, witty start with Young Marx, a show that reunites the team behind one of the biggest smashes of that era: One Man, Two Guvnors.”
“Thinking from scratch about what an unsubsidised 21st century theatre might look like, the creators of the Bridge have freed themselves to concentrate on nurturing new writing, uninhibited by the restrictions of those fixed proscenium-arch stages. Their policy is an inspiration to dramatists to think big. The National may be watching with some trepidation. “
“Rory Kinnear (who played Iago and Hamlet for Nicholas Nytner at the National) is on glorious form here – believably both a high-powered intellectual and a greasy-maned, emotional disaster-area – in the title role in Hytner’s sharp, spry production of Young Marx.
“Though the show won’t disappoint fans of Bean’s flair for one-liners and farcical slapstick, this is not One Man, Two Guvnors Rides Again…But the play can’t be summed up as a larky diminution of the protagonist. Rather the reverse, you could argue. It takes his dialectical materialism seriously in many witty allusions. ”
Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard
“The Bridge is a space that manages to feel both airy and intimate, as well as glamorous and flexible, and the intention is to make it a platform for accessible new plays.”
“The first of these is a comedy from Richard Bean and Clive Coleman — initially larky yet tinged with tragedy, and grounded in historical fact thought it takes some amusing liberties with the detail. “
“The play is packed with incident — including an early morning duel on an ethereal Hampstead Heath — and pungent jokes mingle with scenes of feverish political debate. Even if some of the gags are toe-curling and the story never achieves an ideal level of dramatic momentum, this is still an auspicious opening. “
“Confident and luxuriously cast, it’s populist entertainment with a gently subversive undercurrent. Not top marx, then, but high marx.”
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
“The writers are using a recognisable template. They’ve taken a historical figure and humanised him – imagining the life he lived before he achieved fame – in this case by showing one of the key political thinkers of the 19th century behaving like a bit of a d**k.”
“After an episodic but reasonably entertaining first half, the second half of Nicholas Hytner’s production swerves in a different direction; it’s far more downbeat in tone. While Rory Kinnear remains a lively and engaging presence, what’s missing is a sense of intellectual or emotional trajectory. Though the play attempts to turn them into a double act, whatever it was that made Engels so devoted to Marx, we get little sense of it here.”
“While those of a cynical bent might raise an eyebrow at the juxtaposition of the life of a revolutionary socialist with the launch of London’s newest commercial venue, what’s most notable is how dramatically underpowered this opening effort is.”
Sam Marlowe, The Times
“Written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, Young Marx is a delicious blend of braininess and bounce: a seriously clever comedy stuffed with cheeky anachronisms and shrewd truths about sex, love, money and, of course, politics — past and present.”
“Not every joke lands, and whenever Hytner’s kinetic production finds quieter intensity amid its manic fervour, you yearn for more. Yet it’s ribald, riotous fun, with an ebullient ensemble presenting a nimble parade of Victorian London denizens, led by Rory Kinnear as the chaotically charismatic refugee revolutionary.”
“Mark Thompson’s cuboid set makes a splendid toybox for these overgrown boys, revolving to reveal unexpected doorways, crannies and cubbyholes. With unruly hair, a runaway tongue and a plague of boils on his bum, Kinnear’s Marx is mercurial, maddening. “
“And in its impassioned socialist speeches, its tender bonds of love and friendship and twist of family tragedy, the play moves us to more than just laughter. Astute entertainment, very deftly done.”
Young Marx runs at the Bridge Theatre until 31 December.