Tag Archives: David Mildon

An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People
★★

Union Theatre

An Enemy of the People

An Enemy of the People

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 10th January 2019

 ★★

 

“a very difficult play which Willmott’s ambitious adaptation struggles to realise”

 

To be an ‘enemy of the people’ is a loaded term, one dragging along with it a history of censorship and autocratic rule. It is a threat, and one that Arthur Miller chose to employ in order to explore what might happen when the truth comes up against the will of the majority. An Enemy of the People was first adapted by Miller from a play by Ibsen and has now been updated by Phil Willmott who has placed the story in Trump’s America. In a world of post-truth and populism, this may seem like a close fit but the text itself seems unbending in this update, not lending itself to an easy parallel with the absurdity of Trump’s politics.

This production finds the intellectual Dr Stockmann fighting to save an impoverished provincial American town from building a new spa whose springs are polluted. The town, eager to see some prosperity, slowly turn against the well respected doctor, treating his scientific assessment, his facts, into fiction. Pitted against him stands Mayor Stockmann, his sister and unscrupulous career politician.

Dr Stockmann and Mayor Stockmann, however, seem to struggle to live in the same era: the mayor comes across as a 21st century corporate populist while her brother embodies a conscientious man from the 19th century, ignorant of the political dangers he puts himself in because of his pursuit of truth. It is difficult for the other characters to negotiate the space between these two wildly different positions. It becomes a play in which characters embody their political views with zeal rather than conviction.

The cast, made up of refreshingly mixed ages, generally holds the show well, though some of the American accents could have been a little tighter. Mary Stewart plays Mayor Stockmann as a woman for the first time, an excellent move which Stewart delivers with precision and charm. Jed Shardlow also delivers a convincing torn radical newspaper editer, Hovstad.

As ever, the Union Theatre’s simple but evocative staging (Jonny Rust and Justin Williams)  works well to turn a small revolving platform into a construction site. The simplicity of the staging, however, seemed to leave the actors constricted in terms of movement. Some clearer physical choices, or chairs, were needed.

This is a very difficult play which Willmott’s ambitious adaptation struggles to realise. The battle between tyranny and truth alone makes for a stilted drama that misses the opportunity to explore the subtleties of politics becoming very personal. The parallels with Trump’s America do make the play very relevant but a Brexit boggled UK audience, might find it tricky to relate to the characters, not least because a political debate of this sort would be postponed until after Christmas.

 

Reviewed by Tatjana Damjanovic

Photography by Scott Rylander

 

 

 

An Enemy of the People

Union Theatre until 2nd February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Heartbreak House | ★★★★ | January 2018
Carmen 1808 | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | March 2018
Twang!! | ★★★★ | April 2018
H.R.Haitch | ★★★★ | May 2018
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Ionesco / Dinner at the Smiths – 4*

 

Ionesco / Dinner at the Smiths

Latvian House

Opening Night – 4th March 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“an amuse-bouche of eccentric characters and a soupçon of sheer preposterousness… expect a thoroughly entertaining, albeit bizarre, evening”

 

With performances being presented more frequently in unconventional spaces (later this week we see ‘Drinks’ taking place in an empty Victorian terraced house in Peckham), it didn’t seem too unusual to be invited to Latvian House (part Latvian cultural centre, part hotel in need of a visit from Alex Polizzi), a once grand early Victorian property located in leafy Bayswater, to attend a ‘Dinner at the Smiths’.

For all intents and purposes, we are guests at the dinner party of Mr & Mrs Smith. We are led to the dining room by the somewhat gushing butler (Jorge Laguardia), our coats are taken and we are seated around a long dining table. We are given our ‘menu’ (which is actually a clever little programme of sorts), and are taken through some etiquette by the butler and the maid (Sharlit Deyzac).

We then meet our hosts, Mr Smith (Sean Rees) at one end of the table and Mrs Smith (Lucy Russell) at the distant other end. Mr Smith is hidden behind his ‘English’ newspaper (we are enlightened by the staff as to how terribly ‘English’ everything is), whilst his wife talks at him. Once Mr Smith engages his wife, their conversation soon becomes a bizarre tongue twister dialogue involving commercial travellers and their relatives. Welcome to one unconventional evening.

Carriages arrive quite early at this dinner party (i.e. the performance is fairly short), so I won’t give away too much detail about what happens as this would spoil the surprises and enjoyment. And there are plenty of surprises, one perhaps hinted at when you’re met with no food on your plate, but an eye mask …

A lot of the rather clever comic dialogue depends on truisms; the hosts and guests relaying something so blindingly obvious in a way that it seems surprising. This is very much in the style of Ionesco (around whose words and works the evening is based). Indeed it’s reported that this style of his work came from the manner in which he learnt English, in a course that featured a … ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’ …

Well acted throughout, especially the delightfully silly extended conversation  between the dinner party guests, Mr & Mrs Martin (David Mildon and Edith Vernes), where they finally realise they know each other as they are married and share the same bed.

From an absurdist playwright source, you’d expect the absurd and with ‘Dinner at the Smiths’ you certainly get it! Expect a good helping of witty French dialogue (translated in a manner as to be part of the play), an amuse-bouche of eccentric characters and a soupçon of sheer preposterousness.

Above all, expect a thoroughly entertaining, albeit bizarre, evening.

 


 

Created and Directed by Marianne Badrichani

 

Ionesco/Dinner at the Smiths’

is at Latvian House on Fridays and Saturdays

until 1st April

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

 

 

 

 

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