An Enemy of the People, Schaubühne Berlin. By Henrik Ibsen, version by Florian Borchmeyer. Review by Julia Pascal.


This is and is not Ibsen’s text.  The huge moral concerns of Ibsen’s 1882 original drama, where Dr Stockmann reveals that the new city baths are poisoned and threaten the whole of his society, are still the core of the plot.  But director Thomas Ostermeier has set the play now and has deconstructed the original in order to make this very much a play for today.

The drive of the original is pushed to a brilliant spontaneous interaction with the audience.  They are invited to suggest their own response to the fact that our society is on its deathbed and that the fault lies with woolly liberalism.  The London audience did not cause a riot, as others have done when this production toured, but they did yell out their fury at the BBC bias on the Scottish referendum and engaged in the debate about whether we should pay more taxes to reduce pollution.

This production was an exciting take on Ibsen’s moral concerns revealing that he is very much our contemporary.  The cast of six men and one woman are hugely talented and I am hoping that the Berlin house has other productions that equalise gender.  Jan Pappelbaum’s set is inventive and fresh.  Ostermeier’s vision got the audience talking all the way home and, for many, they will have him to thank for the knowledge that theatre is the most political of arenas.

Photograph: Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photo/Mag

Julia Pascal © 2014.