Tag Archives: Janaki Gerard

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


Unbelonger – 3.5 Stars



Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 9th November 2018


“it doesn’t quite probe far enough, risking becoming just another well-trodden story of one culture failing to integrate with another”


Performed as part of this year’s Voila! Europe Festival, one of the rare festivals in London that brings together British and continental European artists to create what they call a “border-busting mix of multicultural, multilingual, and multidisciplinary performance”, ‘Unbelonger’ is a clever, witty and inventive piece of physical theatre exploring ideas of identity, discrimination and – you guessed it – belonging.

Directed and devised by Finnish artist Erika Eva, the piece uses puppetry and movement to narrate one person’s struggle to feel at home in a foreign environment. What words or actions make us feel excluded, and how does this exclusion affect our own sense of personal and cultural identity? Whether it be work, school or the search for love, the cost of ‘fitting in’ can sometimes be high. To what extent can communities or groups accept ‘different’ cultures, and how could we work to interweave these cultures successfully?

Thematically, ‘Unbelonger’ asks vital and timely questions of its audience and seeing this work here just five months before Britain leaves the European Union reminds us to think more about how our national identity is formed and defined. The international cast (Janaki Gerard, Silvia Manazzone, Tongchai Hansen and Durassie Kiangangu) are energetic and their movement precise, whisking between set pieces effortlessly. Eva combines repetition and an effective use of lighting to explore how good something can look from the outside, but reveal itself to be cold and hollow when we finally get invited in. Xavier Velastin provides a thrilling, almost dystopian, synth-like score, playing it live on his own board of electronic instruments (and what looked like a joystick). Expert use of lighting highlights moments of private reflection, and some cute puppetry from Manazzone creates an intimate relationship between the self and its past.

‘Unbelonger’ is bursting with beautiful, funny set pieces, and the storytelling is clear from the start. As a sum of its parts though, it feels like it doesn’t quite probe far enough, risking becoming just another well-trodden story of one culture failing to integrate with another. It forces some uncomfortable questions nonetheless, and it is work like this that makes the Voila! Europe Festival such a thrilling and necessary part of London theatre.

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich



Cockpit Theatre until 12th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cantata for Four Wings | | April 2018
Into the Woods | ★★★★ | May 2018
On Mother’s Day | ★★★½ | August 2018
Zeus on the Loose | ★★ | August 2018
The Distance You Have Come | ★★★★ | October 2018


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