MARX IN SOHO – a Play on History

Newtown Community & Cultural Centre, Wellington

14/06/2014 - 14/06/2014

The Manchester Ranch, 356 Manchester St, Christchurch

16/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

05/09/2014 - 06/09/2014

#RaucousCaucus 2014

Christchurch Fringe 2014

Production Details

Anya Tate-Manning channels the spirit of Karl Marx in this New Zealand premiere of Howard Zinn’s celebrated play Marx in Soho. Described as ‘hilarious and informative’ by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, Marx in Soho sees Marx return, one hundred and fifty years later, to try and clear his name. A bureaucratic slip-up, however, sees him sent to Soho, New York, instead of his old haunt of Soho, London…

Zinn, best known for his People’s History of the United States, was one of the United State’s most loved progressive historians. In this witty and topical ‘play on history’ he conjures Marx – boils, carbuncles and all – for political entertainment and entertaining politics.

Wellington actor Anya Tate-Manning is the grand-child of Finnish trade unionists; her performance as Marx brings him to life for our times.

Starring Anya Tate-Manning

Newtown Community Centre
Saturday, 14th June, 7pm
Tickets: $15/$20

As part of #RaucousCaucus2014
Bats Theatre (Out of Site)
Fri 5 & Sat 6 September, 9pm

Christchurch Fringe Festival 2014
The Manchester Ranch, 356 Manchester St.
October 16-18
tickets $15/$12
available at the door
or email:

Compelling, energetic and compassionate

Review by Erin Harrington 18th Oct 2014

Historian Howard Zinn’s intelligent and insightful one-person play chronicles the time socialist philosopher Karl Marx spent in London with his wife Jenny and his daughter Eleanor, after they had been expelled from Europe. 

Armed with a dog-eared copy of Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto and today’s local newspaper, Marx – back from the dead – eloquently and passionately defends his work and ideals, while harshly criticising the misreading and misquoting of his work, the despotic Soviet bastardisation of Communism, and the cruelty and impact of commodity-based capitalism: a cruelty that is just as relevant in the free trade-obsessed 21st century as it was in the industrialist mid-19th.

These missives pepper Marx’s moving description of his domestic life and his relationships with his wife and daughter, along with anecdotes about visits from – and work with – other political agitators and theorists such as Frederick Engels.

The whole thing amounts to a humane and utterly relatable account of political and personal idealism, in particular the way that the personal is always political. 

Marx is played by Wellington-based actor Anya Tate-Manning. There is no forced characterisation here, and no attempt to channel Marx’s physicality or mannerisms; just some basic costuming. Instead the character of Marx is delivered, refreshingly, in a brisk, casual Kiwi mode of speech, with the language shifting from the demotic to the polemic. Additional improvised asides situate Marx in the here and now, and blur the line between player and character.

These choices distil the essence of both character and content, highlighting the work’s emphasis upon the common people and ensuring that Marx’s political theory is firmly and necessarily grounded in the everyday. The Spartan aesthetic – a stool, a light, and that’s it – further adds to the political intention of the piece. 

Certainly the play is wordy – this is a crash course of Marxist political theory, in someone’s lounge, on a Friday night – but the writing is tight and engaging and Tate-Manning’s performance is compelling, energetic and compassionate. Both my companion and I want more when it’s finished.


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"I can’t stress enough how valuable this show is"

Review by Phoebe Smith 06th Sep 2014

Marx in Soho, Howard Zinn’s monologue featuring the second coming of Marx in contemporary New York (although in this production it could equally have been Palmerston North) is an extraordinarily well-considered view of Marx, Marxism and people. 

Anya Tate-Manning’s performance simultaneously induces in one a frustrated desire to have had the opportunity to truly listen to Marx speak and also a gratitude for the opportunity to see and hear him in her guise. She portrays somebody honest, intelligent, funny, personable and important – without being self-important. 

There is a raw or rough quality to the performance in the sense that it’s not wholly clear whether the actor is unwell or portraying unwellness in her character. There are also moments when the ‘Secretary’ is called upon to remind Tate-Manning of what comes next in the script. However Tate-Manning deals with these moments both wisely and charmingly with the audiences’ consistent audible approval. 

I can’t stress enough how valuable this show is at the time and place that it is being produced. Zinn’s Marx proclaims most clearly that he is not a Marxist. Everybody in the theatre considers what sort of ‘ist’ they are. The house was only half full on Friday night – let’s fill it up for its second (and last) night on Saturday at 9pm. 


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Truly relevant

Review by Grace Ahipene Hoet 15th Jun 2014

A taste of Karl Marx enlivened the Newtown Community Centre last night.

The visit from the philosopher came courtesy of Howard Zinn’s one person play on history, Marx in Soho: a seamless monologue of capitalist injustices that puzzled him in, his time with a comparative review of contemporary socioeconomic commentary.

Zinn blends history, personal impression and political vivacity into an eloquently assembled and captivating monologue.  His Marx invites the audience to reconsider socialist theory as a compelling perspective for this day and age. “I’m not a Marxist! I’ve come to clear my name…”

Confessions and recollections from the aged Marx give great insight into the private life and love of this family man, performed by Anya Tate-Manning.  

Anya Tate-Manning’s portrayal of Marx is exceptional; her breathless rendition of a (lovable) monster of a script is outstanding. It is always a pleasure to watch an actor hold an audience in the palm of their hand, especially during poignant emotional moments where heartfelt and genuine tears are about to fall … but not quite; a moment that is magical. I do not give praise lightly, but Tate-Manning is a captivating pleasure to watch, even with her Madame Secretary moments. 

Understanding the dynamics and size of the script I have one thing to share: remember to breathe! All great philosophers I’m sure spent a lot of time deliberating and theorising …. Enjoy that beer! 

A lot can be learned from Zinn’s Marx: “I was wrong in 1848 that capitalism was on its way out.”  In Karl Marx’s own words, “Capitalism without conscience is a recipe for revolution.” Are these the Keys to a National Government? “To be radical is to grasp the root of a problem and the problem is us!” 

Che Guevara stated that Marx expresses a revolutionary concept: “The world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed.” As a philosopher, Zinn’s Marx is true and simple: “Use the enormous wealth of the world to feed the people, give them food, give them clean water…”

It is a great pity that this play is on for one night only. Its election year and this play is truly relevant, so make your vote count. 


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