The beauty of this production is in the intense, exhaustive physicality of Mary Myers. She is Karl Marx, two-hundred years after his birth, back from the dead to explain to contemporary Soho how the capitalist mode of production will be overthrown.
The challenge of having a young woman perform an older man is accomplished with flare. The actor is minx like, but in a way that old men sometimes are. In her face and stature is a disciplined performance worthy of a great clown. An electric piece of physical theatre.
Mid 19thcentury London’s muddy, impoverished streets are summoned in such a quick and vivid way. We see Marx trudging through them. His eyebrows, beard, irritability, and inspiration. The pain his boils caused him is expressed with real pathos.
Through Myers frenetic shapeshifting, you then see his wife Jenny Marx – a proper, very intelligent, and commanding woman. It is a phenomenally gripping portrayal of a full-blooded and tempestuous romance – as resentful as it is loving, as supportive as it is scathing.
Their daughter Eleanor is played with cutting teenage ferociousness. Precocious, challenging, and passionate, she falls in love with every radical that visits the Marx’s household. The fatherly love Marx felt for her and all his children is believable and touching. Four of his children died young. Myers channels the grief this must have caused the Marxs’ with a tear-jerking and passionate performance.
The show reaches a stunning emotional climax in a discussion of the Paris Commune. Here the humanist Marx that Zinn has written expounds the glorious spirit of what true, democratic socialism might look like. It’s a rousing and beautiful moment of genuine political inspiration.
This powerful production is continuously interesting to watch. Not just as a re-enactment of the life of Marx, but as an exploration of both where Marxism and gender intercept, and our own relationship to this ‘great man of history’ more broadly.