Theatre Review – The Seagull – Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith London

On my second outing with the small group of theatre-going companions gathered together by the intrepid Elizabeth the play was Young Marx, written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman. It’s in London’s newest theatre, Bridge Theatre, beautifully situated near Tower Bridge. I met two more members of the group with Elizabeth for coffee in the foyer bar and free madeleines came with the tickets. A good start!

The seating design is unusual, with mainly stalls seating and narrow galleries at the higher levels. This means a clear view for all with no supporting columns in the way. It feels intimate but seats up to 900 and was packed for the Sunday matinee. We were just two rows from the stage, my favourite position to see how everything is working. The sets were especially effective, all constructed in a cube that revolved to provide various street exteriors and building interiors.

The play starts with Marx selling his wife’s family silver quite literally but being suspected of stealing it and running from the police. He’s thinking of giving up on his political writing and taking a job at Paddington Station, which could help him pay for a doctor for his son and might save his marriage, although it’s a bit working class for a woman from her wealthy background. She’s packing clothes just retrieved from the pawnbroker and is about to leave him.

If this all sounds serious, that’s not how it’s treated. The opening scenes are farcical and there’s much running around in true Keystone Cops style. Marx shins up walls, up the chimney in his home, and into a cupboard to hide from the police. He makes light of his wife’s packed case with jokes that are irritating snipes rather than laugh-out-loud humour. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it but soon found it was an extraordinary blend of farcical humour, satire, ridiculous jokes my dad might have told, and serious scenes that could shock and be emotionally moving. Not an easy combination to pull off.

The promotional blurb describes Marx as ‘emotionally illiterate’ and that certainly comes across. It also says he’s ‘young’ and ‘horny’, which is misleading. He’s in his thirties with a wife and two children and although he has an affair with a woman who loves him, this happens in the context of a failing marriage. He has important work behind him and his friend Engels is determined to get him writing again and to help him keep his family together.

There are parallels with the present day, with the Marx family subjected to racist taunts for being immigrants, and also arguing for and against acts of terrorism with their fellow activists. Marx and his wife both argue that they agree with the use of violence but they believe it would turn the British working class against them, especially if an attempt is made to assassinate Queen Victoria, who is loved by her subjects.

Some anachronistic comedy works well, including Marx saying at this point that there’s no need for violence to destroy capitalism in Britain as the banks will end up doing so much damage that they will leave the door wide open to change. Nobody could fail to see the irony of that belief. There are also silly anachronistic jokes, like the policeman saying he’s ‘done a course’ when Marx thanks him for not using violence.

The humour can suddenly vanish as the scenes become serious, such as Engels describing the living conditions of the poor in Manchester. Marx has just described himself as ‘brutalised’, and Engels says he wouldn’t use that word for himself if he had seen Manchester. There was laughter from the audience, but then it became serious as Engels talked of the people working in the mills and living in crowded houses with mud and excrement deep outside for them to walk through. My own ancestors on my father’s side moved to Salford from Dublin at about the time this play was set due to new English laws destroying the Irish textile industry so this was a striking scene for me. They weren’t supported by the newly formed unions as the Irish were suspected as the cause for lower pay, with rhetoric very similar to the Brexit discourse these days. This isn’t mentioned in the play.

Two of the most successful scenes are a duel and a funeral. I won’t say too much about them so as not to ruin the plot, as the effect of the surprise on the audience is powerful. The duel absolutely startled me and was stunningly realistic even though I was close enough to see how it was all being done. In fact the fast moving scenes were all very well choreographed, which is impressive on the limited space of a stage. A fight breaking out in the British Museum Reading Rooms is also both funny and intricately arranged.

With the funeral the atmosphere is captivating from the moment the coffin is carried in to the moment the soil is shovelled into the grave to cover it. One of the weaknesses of the play, I felt, was a tendency to go for a cheap joke at every available opportunity, and this scene should have ended without a quip from Marx to his wife. He had finally shown some compassion and guilt and it would have been stronger to end on that note. There’s another point where his lover appeals to him with a dilemma and he responds with dialogue filled with jokes that aren’t funny. I could have done without some of the comedy as there were so many jokes and so many types of humour that worked well that the weak lines weren’t needed, or the ones that undermined a situation that required a different response.

Richard Bean also wrote a version of the Carlo Goldoni comedy ‘Servant of Two Masters’, and the style of Young Marx reminded me of the more recent Italian playwright Dario Fo, whose work I enjoy very much. I was left with the feeling that Young Marx would have been better without some of the trite jokes at significant moments, especially as they gave an impression of a Marx almost completely lacking in empathy. In each case it could be seen that he needed to protect his reputation and was balancing the importance of his work for the many against the needs of the few close to him.

In place of the less successful jokes it would have been good to see a style more like that of Dario Fo in Accidental Death of an Anarchist, where improvisation is allowed to let the director add jokes that are relevant to each day’s news. With the current sex scandals in politics this could have added a whole new layer to the treatment of women in Young Marx. Parallels between Engels’ description of Manchester, the treatment of the Irish there, and the similarity with the dialogue of Brexit could have been made. So I ended up liking the play but feeling there were opportunities missed and some jokes that could have been cut.

The acting was excellent, and the two children were particularly good. Design by Mark Thompson, direction by Nicholas Hytner and music by Grant Olding also contributed to the atmosphere and a feeling of energy and movement. Well worth seeing and the madeleines were fresh and tasty! Next up, The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre, unless Elizabeth slips an additional play in – she often does!

Top 5 Benefits Annuities Can Bring Except The Lifetime Income

Earning a consistent income in their retirement life is a major concern for the seniors approaching their retirement and many of them invest in different annuity insurance plans. These annuities help the insured to receive a guaranteed income for life protects from the fear of outliving their savings. Also, if a senior couple hasn’t saved enough or doesn’t have someone to support after their retirement, these policies help greatly to take care of their daily expenses and maintain a better lifestyle. However, the majority of seniors isn’t aware of all the benefits an annuity can bring. Most of them buy an annuity solely to receive a guaranteed income in their retirement life but the annuities have a lot to offer. Here, we are going to explain five more benefits of a retirement annuity plan that you might not be knowing.

Benefit to your loved ones

At times, seniors pay a long series of premiums to earn them back during their retirement but die at an early age without receiving the complete benefits. Many seniors die soon after their retirement and insurance providers keep their share of investment with themselves. But, the new additional feature allows transferring the benefits to the beneficiaries, if the insured dies early. Along with the immediate annuity plan, you can choose a guaranteed period of 10-20 years that are calculated since the time you start receiving the payments. If you opt for a 20-year guaranteed period with the annuities, your insurer will provide a series of payments for exact 20 years. You can name your spouse or kids as the beneficiary and they will receive the benefits for rest of the period, in case you die early.

Tax deferral on earnings

Most of the investments are applicable for state and federal taxes, but the investments such as interests, annuities, dividends and capital gains earn a tax-deferred status. These investments are tax-free until you withdraw the accumulated amount. The tax-deferral is similar to 401(k)s and IRAs, but there isn’t any limit on the amount and you can put any amount into the annuities that you assume enough to spend your retirement comfortably. Moreover, the minimum withdrawal criteria have more flexibility than that of to 401(k)s and IRAs.

Tax-free investment transfers

Market performs differently at a different time and an investment performing strong today may perform poorly after a certain period. Hence, investors keep transferring their investment amount form one to another fund and there are financial advisors to help with the same. Usually, these investment transfers or rebalancing are applicable for taxes but the annuity retirement plan has no such tax consequences. That means, you can rebalance your investments as per your financial advisor’s suggestion and you won’t have to pay any taxes on that.

Protection from lenders

People take different types of loans to match a better lifestyle and pay the due amount in installments. At times, people reach a stage where they only have the money enough to take care of their fundamental requirements and aren’t able to pay the loan installments. In such cases, if the lender files a lawsuit, they may lose the return on the investments made. Annuities insurance policies also help protect your investment return even if you can’t make the installments. Usually, the premiums you have made to your insurance provider, belongs to them and there are laws that restrict that money to be accessed by the lenders.

Variety of investment options

Insurers help the investors with a range of annuity options at retirement including the fixed and variable one. The first one credits a certain rate of interest on the amount you deposit while with the later, your money is invested in the stock or bonds like mutual funds and provide a return based on the market performance. Also, various insurance providers have introduced different types of floors that set a limit by which your investment value may not fall further. That means, if you have invested in a variable annuity, you return won’t fall below a certain value, despite the fluctuations in the market.

Do You Need Mass Mutual Doctor Disability Insurance?

Yes. Ok, that might be too quick and too brazen, but the truth is most people stand to gain significant risk offset benefits from disability insurance. Most of the things that we value in life are insured – our home, our car and even our life. It is aquite realistic assessment that the risk of damage is quite real, and the cost of repairs (not in case of life insurance, but other insurances) to those objects may be too high to bear in case of an accident or a natural disaster. But in our risk management planning, one thing is often ignored, that is our income. Our earnings are secured only as long as we are healthy and able to work. In case that changes, a disability insurance can provide some much-needed relief.

The scenario in healthcare industry

The case for disability insurance is even stronger in the healthcare industry. Doctors are highly skilled professionals. They are highly reliant on their skill and talents to be able to do their job and earn their livelihood. In case any disability causes them to be unable to render their job, they are at significant risk. Hence, disability insurance is quite prevalent among doctors. In fact, it is common practice for doctors to opt for own-speciality or own-profession insurance plans which are quite expensive but provide generous cover. There are various major insurers that offer specialised insurance products for healthcare professionals such as Ameritas Disability Income Insurance for Medical Professionals, which is a disability insurance for doctors. There are also specialised products on offer by the Ohio National Disability Income Insurance and MassMutual Disability Insurance which also offer own-speciality insurance options as riders.

Some larger healthcare institutions such as hospitals or medical research centres may have a group insurance policy for covering disability, but most group policies provided by employers are inadequate to cover all expenses in case of loss of livelihood. Also, if the doctor chooses to leave the institution, the policy cannot be migrated most of the time. Hence, a personal doctor disability insurance policy is recommended in order to have sufficient coverage and also continue coverage regardless of employer.

Are the risks really high enough?

Let us take a look at the data. According to a survey, about a third of all doctors experience some or the other kind of disability in their professional careers. Of those, about in 40% of the cases, the disability lasts for 7 years or more. That’s the data about the healthcare industry. Now take a look at the average population data. According to the Social Security Administration, an average 20 year old has a 30% probability of suffering from a disability period of 6 months or more. Those are some significant statistical risks, and a good insurance will help you tip the scales in your favour.

Peace of mind

Another advantage of disability is enormous peace of mind. If you have any dependents in your family, such as kids, then having a disability insurance will relieve you of a significant amount of anxiety. There are several insurance plans that pay out almost 85% of your normal earnings as benefits in case you suffer from a disability. Such financial support will help you more or less maintain your present quality of life regardless of any unforeseen tragedies.