Leading lights from the UK’s theatrical community rallied round on Thursday to help launch London’s latest playhouse.
Jonathan Pryce, Sam Mendes, Sir Lenny Henry and Dame Penelope Wilton were all in the audience for the first night of Young Marx at the new Bridge Theatre.
Richard Bean and Clive Coleman’s play is the first to be staged at the 900-seat venue, next to Tower Bridge.
The theatre is the brainchild of Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, the former bosses of the National Theatre.
Helen McCrory, Mark Gatiss, Andrew Scott and Sir Tom Stoppard were also in attendance at Thursday’s opening night.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan – whose City Hall office is directly adjacent to the theatre – also made an appearance.
The critics have broadly welcomed Young Marx, a comic look at philosopher Karl Marx during his exile in London in the 1850s.
The Evening Standard called it “populist entertainment with a gently subversive undercurrent” and praised Rory Kinnear for his “attractively flamboyant” Marx.
The Telegraph, meanwhile, divided its praise between Kinnear’s “spot-on comic timing” and the venue’s “capacious yet intimate” auditorium.
In the Hollywood Reporter, though, Stephen Dalton said the play – while featuring “sustained bursts of brilliance” – was “a less solidly constructed affair” than its “beautiful” surroundings.
Speaking after Thursday’s press night, Starr said that he and Hytner had wanted to create a theatre “where a lot of people could come together in a relatively small space”.
“It’s incredibly intimate for the number of eyeballs that there are in the room,” said Kinnear, who will be seen at the National next year as Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Future offerings at the Bridge Theatre include a promenade staging of Julius Caesar and a play about Bach starring Simon Russell Beale.
Young Marx runs until New Year’s Eve and will be broadcast live into cinemas on 7 December.