dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

An Enemy of the People review at the Bolton Octagon – ‘an insightful revival’

Rob Edwards (centre) in An Enemy of the People at Bolton Octagon. Photo: Ian Tilton Rob Edwards (centre) in An Enemy of the People at Bolton Octagon. Photo: Ian Tilton
by -

Is the majority always right? In Arthur Miller’s version of Ibsen’s angry sociological drama, definitely not. And David Thacker’s skilfully staged account is certainly a reminder of the human capacity for tipping into mob mentality, while making a powerful contribution to this year’s Arthur Miller centenary celebrations.

Building on his acclaimed 1988 Young Vic version, the best thing about Thacker’s new in-the-round late-1900s-set account is the way it explores, explains and exposes so meticulously how ordinary people can turn into a tyrannical self-righteous moral majority.

From the moment Ibsen’s anti-hero, Dr Tomas Stockmann, obtains scientific proof that the local health spa is toxic and likely to bring ruin to the boom-town economy, there’s a compelling inevitability about watching a local saviour being painted as a pariah by a combination of corrupt politics, financial self-interest and personal hypocrisy.

Fired-up by his own witch-hunt experience in an America gripped by McCarthyism, Miller took liberties with Ibsen’s original text: Tomas, for instance, tends to come over as a preachy martyr to the mob rather than Ibsen’s contradictory hotheaded oddball, and the women seem curiously underwhelming. But the cast pitch the characters at just the right level of moral ambivalence, with the pivotal ideological and personal truth-telling clash between Rob Edwards’ Tomas and David Birrell as his oily older brother being exceptionally gripping.

It’s also good to see imaginative use made of the Octagon’s versatile open stage, as James Cotterill’s design shifts the focus from a cosy domestic setting to the public arena and then back to a home utterly destroyed by “the people”.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
An insightful revival successfully combines the dramatic power of Ibsen and Miller    
^