Bread & Roses Theatre
Reviewed – 14th October 2018
“offers little artistic innovation but provides plenty of food-for-thought”
The continuation of Clapham Fringe Festival sees director, Laura Dorn stage a devised adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. Uncannily appearing amidst a week of climate change revelations, The Enemies surrounds the alarming discovery of a plastic factory employee and researcher, Laura (Laura Vivio), prior to a company presentation to the townspeople. The question of whether the factory should halt its plastic production brings a tense debate between Laura and her fellow employee and sister, El (Eleanor Neylon). Johnny (Jonathan Parr) comically attempts to act as a moderator between the sisters while managing the press.
The play undoubtedly captures the essence of Ibsen as the audience find themselves privy to a conversation on entering. Slightly mismatched is the acting style of both El and Johnny, whose tendencies to overact, particularly in the opening sequence, give the impression of a non-naturalistic piece that perhaps ventures towards commedia dell’arte with stock characters. Nonetheless, the issues of business interest versus public health that are dealt with, demonstrate a strong grasp of the themes of Ibsen’s original work and a promising narrative to develop.
The apparent lack of direction at the beginning of this piece makes for a slow start. Featuring extensive dialogue that is characteristic of Ibsen plays, the long monologues that owe to the dramatic style unfortunately seem under-rehearsed. False starts and stumbles in the delivery of lines from all of the cast prevent the audience from willingly suspending their disbelief as they watch the actors visibly attempt to memorise lines.
A lack of attention to the set design in this piece contributes to its amateur feel. Ironically contrasting the highly detailed sets that Ibsen’s plays are renowned for, a prop, draped with black bin bags hangs from the wall. Some thought into how this could be integrated into the set before it finds use in the climax of the piece would prevent this from standing out unnecessarily. The scenery is equally baffling, consisting of a sofa and table dressed in plastic sheets. Perhaps a very literal interpretation of how an office in a plastic factory may look, this makes it hard to grasp where the action is taking place and blurs the boundary between what is public and private discussion.
The Enemies offers little artistic innovation but provides plenty of food-for-thought. The impactful message that concludes the play draws attention to the well-researched facts and figures it aims to convey. Revisiting Ibsen’s 19th century ponderings on the monopoly of truth, exposing hypocrisy and the voice of the masses, The Enemies is an exciting play to be developed in today’s cultural climate.
Reviewed by Beth Partington
Photography by Paul Collins
Bread & Roses Theatre as part of Clapham Fringe