WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE: Bridge Theatre
WHEN: 21/10, press night 27/10, runs until 31/12
‘Our repertoire will be mostly new plays, with an occasional musical and an occasional classic,’ writes Nicholas Hytner, co-founder of the West End’s first new theatre for 30 years.
- Read on for reasons including why this new theatre has teething problems which can be solved
Hytner adds in his programme notes that he’s ‘tried to imagine what a 21st-century theatre could and should be like, for both audiences and those behind the scenes’.
Young Marx is a new play brought to us by the team behind One Man, Two Guvnors, a hit from Hytner’s time as director of the National, just west along the South Bank, between 2003 and 2015.
It’s an unlikely subject to recreate the easy farce of its predecessor with Marx as a 32-year-old in Soho still dreaming of writing his masterpiece, a wife, two children and a housekeeper all living with him in a two-room flat in Dean Street, visited often by his best friend and collaborator Engels.
Read reviews of Kinnear on this site in The Trial (Young Vic) and The Threepenny Opera (National). We’ve not seen him do comedy before but he’s very good here as the drunk and horny intellectual who casts a spell on all of those in his orbit.
Oliver Chris (who transferred with Guvnors to Broadway) is a fine comic foil for Kinnear as his best friend and some of the funniest moments are as they spoof a music hall double act with skits around the Marx family piano.
Laura Elphinstone (pictured above) tugged at our heartstrings as family maid Nim and Nancy Carroll (Woyzeck, Old Vic) makes for a strong counterpoint to Marx as his long-suffering wife.
We laughed a little at this new play but for us it’s nowhere near as enchanting as Guvnors and doesn’t quite have the breakout central performance that was bossed quite so convincingly by James Corden.
We’re back here in January for Ben Whishaw-starrer Julius Caesar and there are clearly problems with the venue that we hope will be rectified by then.
Far from imagining ‘what a 21st-century theatre could and should be like’ it makes for an uncomfortable visit unless you like a lot of queueing. In fact when we weren’t in a queue for something, we were trying to leave the stalls – it takes an incredibly long time to evacuate and all around us were wondering what would happen if there were a fire.
On the plus side, it’s beautifully lit, there’s plenty of free water (still and sparkling) on tap and the staff are helpful. Young Marx, however, isn’t quite the hit a venue with such an iconic location deserves.