David Harrower’s new version of Ibsen’s Enemy Of The People runs barely ninety minutes, the extensive cuts and trims inescapably eliminating texture, complexity and ambiguities of character and morality.
What’s left is the simple fable of a man who is in the right when all others are wrong but is so fatally flawed as a person as to destroy all credibility for himself and his cause.
That dark warning is the core of Ibsen’s play but can’t help feeling thin and overly schematic when that’s all there is to the situation and characters.
A doctor discovers that the spa on which the town’s economy depends is polluted and assumes he’ll be a hero for closing it down. When everyone proves more venal or practical or just weak – and that ambiguity is one of the things lost here – he reacts with a rant that exposes his elitism and almost racist hatred of the crowd.
While Ibsen might want us sobered and even confused by the revelation, Harrower and director Richard Jones let it destroy all sympathy for the hero, exposing him as no more than a madman.
Given that limited vision of the character, Nick Fletcher is eerily impressive, investing the rant scene and what follows not with uncontrolled passion but the frightening calm and surface reasonableness of the monomaniac.
Charlotte Randle as his wife, Darrell D’Silva as the mayor and Bryan Dick as a crusading journalist, each given little more than a single dimension to play, all do so expertly.