Chichester Festival Theatre | until 21st May 2016
An Enemy of the People | Review
An Enemy of the People written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was first staged in London back in 1893. The version that opened last night at the Chichester Festival Theatre is a reworking by Christopher Hampton and it proves that the play is as relevant and poignant today as it has ever been.
Dr Tomas Stockmann has made a startling discovery. The town’s health spa is contaminated with poisonous bacteria and a major refurbishment is required to clean it up and make it safe for people to use. Stockmann is confident that the matter will be prioritised and with the support of the local press and the local tradesmen, he will get positive recognition for this vital discovery.
The spa is central to the town’s economy therefore not everyone is pleased to hear Stockmann’s news, not least his own brother Peter who is the town’s Mayor. When Stockmann realises that his information is about to be covered up and one by one his allies turn against him he has to make a decision whether to go quietly or take a stand on what he believes is right at the risk of alienating himself and his family.
Hugh Bonneville, a household name due to appearing in major TV programmes and films now returns to the Chichester stage to take on the meaty role of the tormented Dr Tomas Stockmann, a man who fervently believes that being a lone voice and standing up for the truth is better than the alternative of becoming one of the majority. Bonneville commands great stage and portrays Stockmann’s crumbling optimism and faith in human nature with conviction and it is easy to see why he is one of the UK’s most popular actors.
Bonneville is supported by a strong cast, notably William Gaminara playing his brother Peter and Adam James playing the turncoat newspaper editor, both excelling in their roles that provide the opposing viewpoint to the future of the town’s economy but who ultimately turn the townspeople against Stockmann during a fierce one-sided debate in which Stockmann is accused of being ‘An Enemy of the People’ by a baying crowd.
Do you stand up for what is right regardless of the consequences or give way to the majority? Ibsen’s timeless play asks difficult and uncomfortable questions of the individual and this Chichester production proves that there are no easy answers.
☆☆☆☆ | Highly recommended
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
Photos (c) Manuel Harlan