• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Review: Marx in London!

ByJemima Hawkins

Feb 14, 2024
A figure with his hands up on stage

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Jonathan Dove’s jovial new opera Marx in London! blends cartoon-like comedy sketches with moments of ‘workers of the world uniting’ to create a polished, opera accessible and amusing to all, if fuelled by general mayhem.

Initially set at 41 Maitland Park Road (where Marx lived from 1864-1875) the opera is set over the course of a single summer’s day in which family and fortune are lost, found, and called into question. Designer Yannis Thavoris leaves nothing to the imagination in a formidable set that flits between an aristocratic living room, a pawnbroker’s shop, a rambunctious pub and Hampstead Heath. The addition of floating furniture and a seemingly airborne removals van adds to the chaotic brilliance of the performance.

The plot is rather difficult to find, let alone comprehend, but the operatic score will swing you along smoothly in late nineteenth century fashion, to a satisfying conclusion that ties all loose threads together, including those you did not even realise had gone astray. Marx (Roland Wood) is tempestuous and running from debt collectors, while his wife (the domineering Orla Boylan) and mistress housekeeper (Lucy Schaufer) procure great laughs from the audience as they deem the famous communist unreliable and turn to ‘another little drink’.

On top of this, the performance dabbles with a romantic trope in the form of Tussi, Marx’s headstrong daughter, and Freddy, a subdued puppy-dog like figure looking for his long lost family. Predictably, said family is that of Karl Marx, calling the budding romance to a swift close before anything dubious occurs.

The backdrop of the set is a rolling map of 1870s London, in front of which mayhem ensues when, naturally, Friedrich Engles (played by the brilliantly whimsical Alasdair Elliott) arrives on a penny-farthing wearing angel wings – the not-too-subtle knight in shining armour ready to save the day.

While saying rather a lot about nothing in particular, Jonathan Dove’s new feat brings opera from its stiff upper lip pedestal to the masses, in a performance that, beneath the exuberance and pandemonium, has family values at its heart.

Image ‘Roland Wood as Karl Marx in Scottish Opera’s production of Marx in London! Credit James Glossop’ provided via Scottish Opera Press Release