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Moving the action to the 1970s, David Harrower’s updated version of Ibsen’s 1882 drama, usually known as An Enemy of the People, takes a rather unsympathetic approach to all concerned.

Even Nick Fletcher’s longhaired Dr Stockmann (the medical officer of a Norwegian town whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism) is hard to warm to, both despite and because of his determination to place the health of the people above everything else, including the welfare of his own family.

It’s obvious from his wife’s demeanour that she’s been through tough times with him before and now, having fallen on his feet in his current position, his decision to go public about his findings threatens to take everything from them again.

He’s discovered that, far from being healthy, the local baths are in fact contaminated, not least by effluent from his father-in-law’s tannery.  Though initially supported by the local newspaper, it doesn’t take much for his older brother, the Mayor (a crafty Darrell D’Silva) to make the editor realise the cost of closing the baths and putting things right.

Stockmann’s garishly orange home looks uncomfortably set for conflict right from the start, but Miriam Buether’s long, stretched design comes into its own when Stockmann deliver his impassioned, principled public speech, making us the townsfolk and complicit in his vilification.

And, although Richard Jones’ interval-free production (in spite of its contemporary political resonance), it doesn’t always hit the mark. It makes it very clear that self-interest rules and it’s not just the water that’s polluted. 

Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
Tube | Southwark / Waterloo
Until 8th June, £10 - £32.50
youngvic.org 

Photo: Keith Pattison


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Public Enemy - theatre review: Young Vic, London
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