Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Birthmarks

Out of Wales Theatre Company , Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff , April-26-89
‘The troubled souls who sell their ultra-left papers in town centres on Saturdays will not like this (play) which shows their hero as racist, sexist and given to strong drink. As Karl Marx observed, philosophers have interpreted the world and the real point is to change it. We have to thank playwright Mark Jenkins for interpreting Marx.
Jenkins may or may not be a Marxist; since Birthmarks is drama rather than propaganda, it doesn’t matter. It is to be judged on its merits and I judge it to be superb. It is a treat to watch the Everyman Theatre Company…Laurence Llewellyn portrays Marx as nineteenth century in his views on sex and race. The fashionable insistence on equality in all things comes much later and it is simply not good historical practice to saddle Marx himself with it. Marx’s Das Kapital deals with the economic relationship between labour and capital and only in redefining that relationship is he revolutionary.
We are not surprised that, having made his housekeeper pregnant, he quickly gets the child adopted through an arrangement with Engels, fearing damage to his reputation.
Ian May as the tipsy, hunt-following Engels and Cler Stephens as Lenchen are perfect. John Atkinson, doubling as Marx’s lamdlord and a political rival is exquisite, as is Alison Jenkins as Jenny marx and Nick Bowman doubling in lesser roles.
The best play I have seen this year. They even managed to explain Marx’s theory of surplus value and make it interesting!’

Reviewed by: Mike Buckingham, Theatre critic, South Wales Argus

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