Sunday 29 October 2017

Taking The Stage

Those who stray into the culture pages of the press which has articles and reviews on drama will be aware that there is a new theatre in London. It is "The Bridge" built by The London Theatre Company and is a handsome auditorium for modern audiences and equipped for up to date hi-tech staging.

Among the first productions is a play directed by Nicholas Hytner, a leader in the field, and written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, titled "Young Marx". They have appealed to the audience in depicting Karl Marx as a person of his age and time in 1850 as well as being a writer and thinker of new ideas proclaiming a future for the masses.

It is the period when he was living at Dean Street in Soho which gives a chance for some fun as well as his patronising the local public houses. I wonder how different or not they were from when I was doing the same. One thing missed there will be that one had as the publican in Marx's time a George Gissing. I have tried to connect him to the author of the same name rather later, but failed.

The writers appear to have been faithful to the family and household of Marx at the time, notably the maid servant and have Friedrich Engels visiting, an obvious choice. But there is more to it than that. One curiosity is that in the 1851 Census he is listed as Charles Mark.

Whether this was the enumerator getting it wrong or Marx being careful given the fact that whether or not he was right, he might be have been under surveillance we shall never know. Because the maid servant and others are given the correct names.

But there is a name missing from the play and a very important one. I have written on this before, it is Morgan Kavanagh, of the Kavanagh's of Carlow, Ireland, an older man and a published expert in philology, the history of religion, cults and sects and society as it might and should be. Was he in effect Karl's mentor at the time?

Was there music for the play? If so, what kind? Despite his origin I doubt that "Prussian Glory" would be quite right. But the one that would be is this from Balfe's The Bohemian Girl "I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls", first performed at Drury Lane in 1843. Balfe was Irish and I could see Karl and Jenny up there in the balcony loving every bit of it, possibly with Kavanagh providing the tickets.

What is little understood these days is that in the period of the 1840's and 1850's there had been mass migration from all the upland areas of the Atlantic Isles, including England, arising from the conditions in climate and agriculture.

This meant many coming into London either by choice or because they failed to make it onto the boat to somewhere else. It was the same in other urban areas. So "the masses" were not simply the basic workers but hordes of mobile displaced poor looking for any work at almost any price.

As in my time, in the search for living space the windows and doors of properties would often have signs saying no this or that of one race or faith or another or some. After my stay in one the item "rugby players" was added. The exclusions were many and various.

One that was very common was "No Irish". Nowadays this kind of thing is forbidden for the most part. But it seems that The Bridge still feels that way about its drama.

1 comment:

  1. "Morgan Kavanagh... Was he in effect Karl's mentor at the time?"

    That's an interesting question because his influence, if there was any, could have been as ephemeral as chats in the pub. Even so it could have made a lasting impact.