Who knew Marxism could be funny? It never elicited so much as a giggle back in those turgid political history classes of yore, but in Lee Hall's fresh adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's comedy, it's a veritable barrel - ney, a brewery - of laughs.
You've heard of the stereotypical mean drunk. Mr Puntila (Hamish McColl) is the opposite - a mean sober. A member of the landed classes, when sozzled, he nevertheless fancies himself one of 'the people', a true friend to the working man, as embodied by his dutiful chauffeur Matti (Sean Foley), a 'real human being'. When, on the other hand, Puntila is suffering an infrequent attack of sobriety, he is a right capitalist pig and Matti the enemy who took advantage of him when under the influence of that demon drink.
Which is the true Puntila? The answer to that question is hastened by his daughter Eva's (Hayley Carmichael) betrothal. Should she marry into the bourgeoisie in the form of the spineless attaché, or the proletariat, Matti? And what of Matti? Does his affection for the drunken Puntila, the flirtatious Eva and the plenty of Puntila Hall constitute a betrayal of his roots?
This is the first time that the Right Size (McColl and Foley) have taken on a classic text and the fit could not be more perfect. The fast-paced farce is tailor-made for the talents of the jocular duo. As the schizophrenic Puntila, McColl in particular is awarded ample opportunity to display his comic delivery and out-takes from the ministry of funny walks.
The load of dogma is further lightened by a varied cast and some inspired stage direction. The method of announcing each scene with bullhorn and pithy precis, to the strains of a ukelele and double bass, is especially welcome for anyone prone to losing the plot. (However unlikely that is in such a well sign-posted production.)
Card-carrying members of Alchoholics Anonymous may not like the depiction of drunkenness as a virtue, but Marxists and non-Marxists alike can't fail to miss the main message. Nor thank the messengers for serving it up so eloquently.