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Engels!: The Karl Marx Story

Discover 21, Edinburgh
Three stars
If the revolution starts at closing time, few took advantage of the licensing laws more than Karl Marx himself. Or at least that's how the inventor of orthodox radical thought as we know it is presented in Ben Blow's scurrilous little play, first seen on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe earlier this year. Blow's play is now one of the first shows to play in the much needed thirty-five seat Discover 21 space, situated in the equally necessary Arts Complex initiative that exists inside St Margaret's House, a 1960s office block.

Here, Marx is a randy old goat living it up in nineteenth century Manchester, with a much put-upon Engels footing the bill for all his excesses while being bullied into doing most of the graft on The Communist Manifesto. With much of the necessary first-hand knowledge of the lumpen proletariat provided by Marx's favourite prostitute, Molly, the absurd double act of Charlie (Marx) and Freddy (Engels) embark on a barricade-hopping road trip, as Marx claims immortality for himself.

With Blow himself playing a blustering, northern English accented Marx opposite Matthew Jebbs' Engels, the pair's travails fall somewhere between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in that double act's Road movies, albeit with political one-line gags aplenty. Even a musical hating Victor Hugo makes an appearance in the Unknown Quantity/Dubious Quality company's production. With able comic support from Rowan Winter and Johnny Dillon, this is a refreshingly cynical knockabout alternative if knowingly dubious history that hints at what might have been, if only those pesky contradictions inherent in the system hadn't got in the way.

The Herald, November 28th 2013 


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