Theatre Review: An Enemy of the People

Nottingham Playhouse continues its string of successful shows with a cautionary tale on the dangers of power and how it can indiscriminately crush anyone who opposes it…

In the spa town of Skien in Norway, Dr Teresa Stockmann (Alex Kingston) thinks she has struck gold when she realises that the waters of the town have been poisoned due to years of pollution, with scientific proof. However, her brother Peter (Malcolm Sinclair) who serves as the town’s mayor dismisses the claim as untrue in order to protect the town’s reputation, especially with the busy summer season coming up.

He uses his power to manipulate the media and the town to make them believe Teresa wants to destroy the town’s livelihood and restrain her story from being published. This soon spreads further with Teresa’s family, including her young daughters, being put at risk as a result of being associated with the “Enemy of the People”.

The show’s set, designed by Morgan Large (who previously designed Nottingham Playhouse’s Wonderland) has an interesting approach of being a raised platform in the middle of the stage. The main set is the Stockmann’s house (kitchen, dining room and living room) but changes to the office and the street’s protest which gives off the sense of Skien being an isolated community and Teresa’s only point of contact.

Everyone gives strong performances, most of all Malcolm Sinclair as Peter, the slimy politician who would do anything in the interest of “the greater good”, even if it means turning everyone against his own sister. Some of the audience booed Malcolm like a pantomime villain when he bowed which shows he gave a convincing and realistic performance.

Despite its dark subject matter, the play has great humour. One scene which gave the audience a good chuckle was when Katherine and Greta (Teresa’s young daughters) walk in on an argument between her and her husband Christopher (played by Deka Walmsley), and she attempts to cover it up by saying they were just talking.

This is a highly enjoyable play, especially against the backdrop of our current political climate, with themes such as fake news and previous generations’ influence on the environment that keep it relevant today. An Enemy of the People continues Nottingham Playhouse’s successful run with relevant subject matter and a dark feeling of unease, without forgetting some good humour as a counterbalance.

An Enemy of the People will be at Nottingham Playhouse until September 28.

By Stuart McComb

Feature image credit: Tristram Kenton

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