Review: An enemy of the people


by Mike Matthaiakis

An Enemy of the People” arrives on the West End stage with a thunderous relevance that echoes through the ages, propelled by Henrik Ibsen’s timeless exploration of truth, democracy, and the perils of speaking out against the establishment. Directed by Thomas Ostermeier and brought to life by a stellar cast led by Matt Smith, this blistering modern-dress production crackles with urgency and provocation.

At the heart of the play lies the moral dilemma of Dr. Thomas Stockmann, portrayed with electrifying intensity by Matt Smith. As Stockmann uncovers pollution in the waters of his local spa town and attempts to expose the truth, he becomes embroiled in a battle against the authorities who seek to silence him. Smith’s performance is a tour de force, charting Stockmann’s journey from confident idealism to disillusionment and ultimately to extremism with searing authenticity.

Paul Hilton delivers a standout performance as Stockmann’s brother, a local politician whose arrogance contrasts sharply with Stockmann’s righteous fervor. Shubham Saraf impresses as newspaper editor Hovstad, whose zeal for investigative journalism wanes in the face of economic pressure, adding layers of complexity to the moral quandaries at play.

Ostermeier’s staging is a masterclass in tension and pacing, expertly navigating the play’s intricate moral arguments and societal critiques. The production cleverly reframes Ibsen’s narrative within a contemporary context, highlighting the insidious ways in which truth can be manipulated and distorted in the pursuit of power.

While the production has its flaws, including occasional pacing issues and limited character development, the performances are uniformly excellent. Zachary Hart shines as the endearing Billing, while Jessica Brown Findlay brings depth and pathos to the role of Stockmann’s wife, Katharina.

Ultimately, “An Enemy of the People” is a powerful indictment of the dangers of complacency and the corrosive effects of corruption. As Stockmann grapples with the consequences of his actions, the play forces audiences to confront uncomfortable truths about the fragility of democracy and the perversion of truth in pursuit of power. In today’s era of fake news and alternative facts, Ibsen’s timeless masterpiece serves as a stark warning and a rallying cry for integrity and accountability. With its timely themes and powerhouse performances, this production resonates with a chilling relevance that reverberates long after the curtain falls.

An enemy of the people” is at the Duke of York’s Theatre, till 6 April.